Total, MOL: 1st France-based LNG bunker vessel aces sea and gas trials

The first liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker vessel to be based in France has successfully completed sea and gas trials, moving one step closer to its delivery and operational commencement.

Photo: Total/MOL

The new vessel is TotalEnergies Marine Fuels’ second collaboration with Japanese shipowner Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL) and Chinese shipbuilder Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding.

TotalEnergies Marine Fuels and MOL signed a long-term charter contract in November 2019 and construction commenced in April 2020.

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The 18,600 cbm vessel was first launched from the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in China at the end of April 2021.

In June, sea trials were conducted off Shanghai where the new vessel’s navigation and propulsion systems were successfully tested, including speed and maneuverability assessments at open sea. Gas trials were completed in early July.

Due to go into operational service in the final quarter of 2021, the ship will be operated by V-Ships France, under the French flag, and will be based in the Port of Marseille-Fos, Southern France, to serve the Mediterranean region.

The newbuild’s first contracts will be to perform LNG bunkering services to CMA CGM’s LNG-fuelled containerships and MSC Cruises’ upcoming LNG-powered cruise ships that call at the French port.

Leveraging the design-and-build experience for TotalEnergies Marine Fuels’ first chartered LNG bunker vessel – Gas Agility – the world’s largest LNG bunker vessel in operation, the new vessel will incorporate enhanced equipment boosting its bunkering efficiency and flexibility to supply LNG to a wide range of vessels across various segments and sizes. These improved features include an additional bow thruster, upgraded cargo pumps and high duty compressors, as well as a pressure reduction system to optimize bunkering operations of ‘Type C’ tank vessels under all conditions.

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Other key features will be similar to Gas Agility’s design. The 135-meter-long, GTT Mark III membrane vessel is expected to meet “the highest technical and environmental standards”, itself using LNG as propulsion fuel and integrating a complete re-liquefaction of the boil-off gas, according to Total.

The Bureau Veritas-classed vessel is said to underline a strong collaborative action across the French maritime industry, from incorporating technologies of French companies into the vessel’s shipbuilding, to the supply of LNG, and the involvement of local port authorities to enable the vessels’ safe operatorship.

“We are excited to be at the forefront of making LNG bunkering capabilities readily available in France and the Mediterranean region,” Jérôme Leprince-Ringuet, Vice-President Marine Fuels at TotalEnergies, commmented.

“With shipping’s accelerating transition to this cleaner marine fuel, we look forward to providing our customers with another major European hub for their LNG bunkering needs.”

“MOL will support TotalEnergies in a long term throughout the LNG supply chain, contributing to stable energy supply and decarbonization of the shipping industry,” Kenta Matsuzaka, Senior Managing Executive Officer of MOL, said.

By end 2021, TotalEnergies Marine Fuels will charter two LNG bunkering vessels in Rotterdam and Marseille and share the use of a third bunker vessel in Singapore.

In February 2021, the Singapore entity of TotalEnergies Marine Fuels also received a license from the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to supply LNG in the Port of Singapore from 2022.