The 'Clean Sky' LNG-fueled bulk carrier design. Image: Lloyd's Register

The ‘Clean Sky’ LNG-fueled bulk carrier design. Image: Lloyd’s Register

Class society Lloyd’s Register said Thursday that it has provided approval in principle (AIP) for COSCO Shipyard’s new ‘Clean Sky’ LNG-powered bulk carrier design.

COSCO, Golden Union and Lloyd’s Register began the project in June 2011 to investigate the potential to develop a commercially viable bulk carrier design based on an existing COSCO conventional Kamsarmax bulk carrier, only incorporating a gas powered propulsion systems. Kamsarmax refers to a relatively new type of ship, larger than panamax, that are suitable for berthing at the Port of Kamsar (Guinea) and have a maximum length of 299 meters.

The ‘Clean Sky’ design is notable because it allows owners to choose between dual, or tri-fuel engines able to burn, heavy fuel oil (HFO) or diesel, as well as LNG. The ‘Clean Sky’ is also said to be beyond the concept stage, with the possibility for the first such vessel to be built next year.

Nick Brown, Lloyd’s Register’s Area General Manager and Marine Manager in China commented: “This news moves the industry far beyond the concept stage. A ‘Clean Sky’ ship could be built next year. We have addressed the technology issues; the approval in principle that we issued today only comes after exhaustive risk investigations into the gas containment, bunkering systems and performance assessment.”

Various containment systems and configurations were considered by the project team, but the final choice was for a single, 1,160 m3 type ‘C’ tank that sits aft on the port side.

“COSCO Shipyard Group has a strong sense of social responsibility,” says COSCO Shipyard Group’s Head of Engineering, Zhan Shu Ming. “We are innovating to help shipowners meet new IMO emissions and performance requirements. Society is looking for alternatives to current fuels, which are also rising in price. The increased availability of gas reserves and the emissions benefits are driving interest in LNG as an alternative fuel. With COSCO Shipyard Group’s depth of experience in building Kamsarmax bulk carriers, we are now very well placed to build bulk carriers with the new gas technology. Our development in LNG as an alternative fuel technology will not be only limited to the application to bulk carrier designs, but also for other ship types. The current achievement is only the beginning of our research and development for LNG as an alternative fuel and the COSCO Shipyard Group, as a pioneer in this new technology, is committed to even more in-depth research in the future.”

A representative from Golden Union commented:

“The particularly tough environmental requirements mean vessels will have to comply with the International Maritime Organisation’s Tier III regulations by 2016 and this opens up demand for new ship propulsion solutions incorporating cost effective technologies. This could trigger a substantial shift towards natural gas-powered vessels; and in gas mode dual fuel engines already comply with the IMO’s Tier III requirements. Using LNG may be the ideal solution for meeting increased environmental performance without losing competitiveness. This design offers significant reductions in SOx, NOx and particulate – as well as CO2 – emissions by simply using cleaner LNG instead of employing costly and complex cleaning systems which do not always work.”

“Looking at the commercial perspective of LNG as a ship’s fuel, the capital expense of installing an LNG fuel system should be paid off after few years by operating expense savings, especially if a vessel is trading within ECAs. Global reserves in LNG greatly surpass oil reserves. LNG is becoming more readily available in the market. This, in combination with steady demand, should reduce price volatility in comparison with HFO. Keeping this in mind, HFO and marine diesel and marine gasoil prices will be likely to increase faster than LNG rates, speeding up the pay-off of the system.”

To date, LNG-as-fuel research, technology development and newbuilding activities have focused on specific niche sectors such as ferries, offshore vessels and short sea, or inland, trades. This project paves the way for take-up in deep sea bulk carrier trades, and perhaps even tankers.

“The challenges are similar for tankers,” Brown said. “Clearly there are benefits with using clean gas technology. The key issues now are commercial.”

Other LNG-fueled bulk carrier concepts we have seen include the ECO-Ship 2020, developed by Oshima Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. and DNV, and the Green Dolphin, developed by Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute (SDARI) and development partners DNV and Wärtsilä but only leaves the possibility for a future LNG-fueled retrofit.

‘Clean Sky’ class design Kamsarmax bulk carrier particulars

  • Length overall: 229.0m
  • Breadth: 32.26m
  • Depth: 20.25m
  • Draft, design: 12.20m
  • Draft, scantling: 14.50m
  • Deadweight: 81,000 dwt
  • Engine: MAN B&W 6S60ME C-8.2 – GI Tier II
  • Gas containment: 1 x 1,160 cu. m ‘C’ type tank
  • Speed: 14.10 knots (excluding any Energy Saving Devices)
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