Sea Star Line takes on LNG-powered container shipping

The seascape for LNG in maritime shipping is quickly changing in the U.S. as Sea Star Line awaits the first of two LNG-powered container vessels in 2015 and 2016 along with completion of an LNG bunkering station at the Jacksonville Port.

The two new Marlin Class ships, being built by General Dynamics NASSCO’s shipyard in San Diego will ship to Puerto Rico from Florida, specifically between Jacksonville and San Juan.

According to a press release from Sea Star Line parent company TOTE, NASSCO engineers placed the world’s first dual-fuel slow speed engine into the world’s first LNG- powered containership, earlier in September. The 539-ton engine was built by Doosan Engine in Korea under license from MAN Diesel and Turbo.

Hull 495, the first of the two Marlin-Class vessels being built by NASSCO will be completed in early 2015.

NASSCO has been hard at work after taking delivery of the engines as well as the vessel’s massive LNG fuel tanks, which were also manufactured in Korea. The 3,100 TEU container ships will have tank capacities of 900,000L for each ship.

In 2015, Environmental Protection Agency emission control area standards become effective off of U.S. coastal waters encompassing Caribbean maritime routes. The two new container ships allow Sea Star Line to lead the way for ECA standards compatible container shipping vessel emission control technology represented by the growth of LNG. In addition to its comparable cost to heavy fuel oil (HFO), using LNG as ship fuel reduces sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions by as much as 95 percent.

LNG also complies with IMO Tier III limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, has lower carbon content, and leads to a reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 to 25 per cent. According to Tote executives, the ships will require less energy to travel the same distance and help preserve the environment.

In a concurrent and cooperative venture, Pivotal LNG and California-based energy group Wespac Midstream formed a joint venture to build an LNG bunkering plant near the Jacksonville Port Authority’s Dames Point Marine Terminal. The Dames Point Marine Terminal is JAXPORT’s newest marine facility. The terminal is situated alongside the harbor’s main shipping channel.

The adjacent property, owned by the Port Authority, will be the site of a $30 million Intermodal Container Transfer Facility. The facility will allow containers to be more efficiently shipped via rail.

While there is a growing number of LNG bunkering stations at a number of major European ports, the LNG bunkering facility at JAXPORT is the first in North America. As the success of the two new Marine class LNG-powered Sea Star Line ships is revealed, more ships (some already off the drawing board) will soon follow. The proven performance as well as the favorable economics and decisive environmental advantages of LNG as part of cutting edge ship design signals the shift that is underway as the maritime industry slowly commits to LNG.

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Press Release; Image: General Dynamics NASSCO

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