TOTE's first Orca-class vessel, the M.V. Midnight Sun, sails out of San Diego Harbor to conduct a series of successful sea trials in March 2003.

TOTE’s first Orca-class vessel, the M.V. Midnight Sun, sails out of San Diego Harbor to conduct a series of successful sea trials in March 2003.

General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego said Monday that it has finalized a contract with Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) to design the conversion of the company’s two existing Orca Class diesel-electric trailerships to liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion, further expanding the company’s appetite for LNG-power and ahead-of-the-curve environmental performance.

In December, TOTE ordered two of the world’s first LNG-powered containerships from NASSCO. News of the ORCA-class conversion project first came in August 2012 when TOTE announced that it received a permit providing a conditional waiver from the current Emissions Control Area (ECA) fuel sulfur content requirements of MARPOL Annex VI regulation 14.4 while the company pursued the conversion.

“We are very excited to be engaged in another LNG project with TOTE,” said Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. “This project provides yet another sign that we are in the dawn of a new era of LNG propulsion. NASSCO will be a leader in the design, construction and conversion of ships to take advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of LNG.”

Conversion of the ships to LNG propulsion are expected to significantly reduce or nearly eliminate the sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide (SOx, NOx, and CO2) and particulate matter from ship emissions when compared to traditional diesel fuel.

The 839-foot Orca Class ships, which operate between Tacoma, Wash., and Anchorage, Alaska, were designed and built by NASSCO. Both ships were delivered in 2003.

NASSCO says that the TOTE conversion and new-construction projects validate the company’s reputation as one of the United States’ leading shipyards for commercial and government new construction. The projects add to the engineering and construction capabilities the shipbuilder offers customers and leverages its design/procurement partnership with Daewoo Ship Engineering Company (DSEC), as well as its recent investments in people, facilities and equipment.

So far no timeline has been given on the conversion project.

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