triality dnv

DNV’s LNG-powered crude oil tanker concept, “Triality,” (c) Det Norske Veritas

According to Robert Bugbee, President of Scorpio Tankers, the answer to the eco-ship question can perhaps be found by considering the question, “Do you believe in God?”

If you believe in God and He exists, you go to heaven.

If you don’t believe in God and He does exist, you go to Hell.

Well, if you don’t believe in ec0-ships, and it turns out eco-ships are the right answer, the playing field may no longer be what you thought it was and business could get far more challenging.

There has been much talk about the global oversupply of ships. At face value, further discussion about building more ships suggests shipowners are slightly out of their mind.

In some cases, that might be true, however when it comes to eco-ships, there is data to support the building of new vessels.

Albrecht Grell, Senior Executive Vice President of Maritime Solutions at Germanischer Lloyd mentioned in his presentation at the Connecticut Maritime Association conference that “in container shipping, we see enough benefits of eco ships to justify orders beyond what would be introduced due to supply and demand.  The strongest category is within the 4500 TEU range which were originally designed to transit the Panama Canal.  The new optimized designs will be able to generate substantial advantages.”

Explaining this further, Grell notes, “Containerships in the 4500 TEU range were designed and built with large engines to transit at over 20 knots and were optimized for the Panama Canal.  Their power-to-TEU ratio is far higher than any other containerships, and when you take into account slow steaming operations, the engines are now being operated far less efficiently while carrying less cargo.  Slow steaming, oversupply, and the new Panama Canal have made these ships completely obsolete.”

There are many fuel-saving options out there, so what’s the best answer?  It depends.

Kishore Rajvanshy, Managing Director at Fleet Management Ltd notes that the cost between a new eco-ship and a conventional ship is roughly 10 percent, with potential fuel savings of 15 percent.  Retrofits of existing ships can achieve similar fuel savings as well.

He gave an example of a ship that underwent a refit which included a main engine de-rating (to optimize it for slow steaming), a new, 3-bladed propeller, frequency-controlled seawater pumps, engine room blowers, plus a Mewis duct.  The total cost of the refit was $1.7 million and it took 18 days in the drydock.

Fuel savings have averaged 13 to 15% with a payback of 3.5 years.

The eco-ship revolution may be on the horizon, but these new ships will not replace the existing fleet overnight and ship managers are under “severe pressure to deliver high-end services, ensure managed vessels meet regulatory requirements and to cut costs, ” added Simon Barham, Chief Operating Officer at Bibby Ship Management.

“Lower speed equals lower fuel consumption, but not running engines at optimum speed can result in costly maintenance issues,” Barham continued.  “In my mind, it comes down to good management.”

To close the gap between eco ships and non-ecos, there are a number of different options which owners are implementing, such as slow steaming, design modifications, and weather routing, but perhaps the biggest factor is the crew.  “If you can’t get your senior officers on board with how they need to run the ship, you won’t achieve your goals,” says Barham.

When you add the need to operate ships more efficiently on top of regulatory requirements such as switching to low-sulfur fuel when entering Emissions Control Areas (ECAs), it gets even more complicated.

“It must be said that switching on to low sulphur fuel is not a problem, but switching on to gas oil is, and that will need some modifications to the vessel,” noted Barham.

“The main engines themselves are not designed to burn light fuels. That will mean that changes will have to be made – pumps will have to be examined, even the design of some ships will have to be looked at because it is debatable whether some ships will actually have enough space to carry the additional bunker fuel tanks.

As a lot of the existing fleet was built in the late 1990s or early 2000s, many will only have a couple of bunker tanks. They’re already carrying heavy fuel and light fuel and now they’re going to have to carry gas oil. There’s going to be a lot of conversions going on. There is a cost element involved there as well.”

At the end of the day, a two-tier market with eco and non-eco ships appears inevitable, and for owners who find themselves with less efficient ships than their competitors, innovation will be the key to prosperity.

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  • Taylor Gregg, editor

    5th parag. “…shipowners out of their mind.” implies that they share a single mind!? No wonder they are in trouble.

  • John

    In the spot tanker space, we’re already hearing anecdotes of owners offering their ECO ships at below market rates and their non-ECO ships at market rates. Owners going after spot cargoes are shooting themselves in the foot if they are going to go after cargoes by passing their bunker savings onto the charterer. The value in ECO ships to the owners will be found with time charters and liner service.

    But, I believe that this argument will be looked at with a bit of a laugh in a few years. LNG is the fuel source that will power our ships in the future.

    • Tups

      The problem with LNG is that for longer trips the size of the fuel tanks becomes a problem. The LNG-powered cruiseferry that sails between Finland and Sweden daily refuels every other day even though it has two large cargo tanks on the aft deck. Of course you could increase the size of the vessel, but the additional volume used for LNG tanks increases GT, which is the basis of many port fees. The other option, reducing the cargo capacity, is equally unattractive.

      I’d say LNG is optimal for short-sea shipping, but not really an option for longer legs.

    • Tups

      I think that in the future, we’ll see an increasing shift to larger and slower ships in order to push down the per-ton-of-cargo costs. Triple E, Valemax… that’s the way to go.

  • John

    I don’t think using a cruise ferry is the best example of LNG’s potential. That particular cruise ferry trades on a route where LNG bunkering is available regularly, allowing the operators to maximize cargo/passenger space over bunker space. I concede that LNG requires more storage space than the equivalent heating value of IFO. I believe that the figure is LNG requires around 1.7 cubic meters for one cubic meter of IFO. But with a keel-up design the amount of space required can be integrated into the vessel in a way that will not affect cargo capacity. For example, space needed for IFO settling tanks, service tanks, and purifier rooms will no longer be needed on an LNG-consuming vessel. Containerized LNG tanks will allow tanks to be placed in unconventional spaces, ie on deck, up forward, etc. It will be an exciting time for creative naval architects.

    I agree with you on the larger, slower ships, but to a point. We will be limited by port infrastructure and commercial flexibility. On the tanker side, the ULCC’s have gone by the wayside and those that are still around are being turned into FSO’s. Charterers have trouble finding a way to use them.

    • Tups

      Vacuum-isolated pressure storage tanks (10 bar) take up 4-5 times more volume than an equivalent fuel oil tank when placed inside the vessel. More space-efficient prismatic LNG fuel tanks are being developed, but they still take up about three times the space of a diesel tank with the same energy content as they can not withstand as high pressures as a cylindrical tank. This, of course, means that it’s better to place the tanks on the deck (or other unconventional locations if the deck space is needed for something else).

  • Monteiro

    Well as said in the article it is obvious that ECO Ships will become inevitable. As soon as the first ones are coming out and put on service this allows shipowners to get lower financial charges and at the end they will be more competitive (either offering more competitive freight rates or earning more money depending on the market). The challenge now is to shipowners to get rid of the older and less economical vessels, on a market where supply and demand are still unbalanced, those vessels will probably see their value melt like “ice in the sun”.

  • Lee Nhan

    Target – green environmental forever needed new initiatives Details at Ships electric power supply

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