ABS in Asia – Innovation Despite the Downturn

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May 18, 2012

– By Neville Smith

Like their shipbuilding and shipowning clients, classification societies are contending with tough market conditions and an uncertain economic outlook. And just like them, class must continue to focus on safety and quality while providing ever-greater levels of innovation in service delivery. 

Akira Akiyama ABS
Akira Akiyama, ABS' Vice President, Technology & Business Development

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) continues to hold a strong market share in the tanker, bulk carrier and containership segments. In addition, ABS serves market sectors that are seeing significant activity, notably in offshore and LNG, where it carved out an early market share.

In Asia, ABS operates with two geographical entities: the Greater China Division, including China and Taiwan and the Pacific Division, representing Korea, Japan, Singapore and the rest of Asia.  In those areas, ABS has one of the largest newbuilding market shares with 60+ LNG ships and 30+ drillships under construction in Korea, and 45 jack-up drilling units under construction in Singapore.  ABS is reported to hold a 40% market share in Korea, and a 90% share in Singapore between Keppel FELS and Sembcorp Marine shipyards.This strong orderbook for some of the most advanced marine assets can be attributed to ABS’ constant push to be at forefront of shipbuilding technology.

The continued interest in the LNG shipping sector is directly reflected in ABS’ work in supporting LNG carrier technology development with equipment manufacturers and shipyards alike.

ABS Vice President, Technology & Business Development Akira Akiyama says the pursuit of greater propulsion efficiency is leading more owners to evaluate the use of slow-speed-dual fuel engines (ME-GI) on LNG carrier newbuildings. ME-GI systems have a number of attractive features, minimizing  ‘methane  slip’ and transient response issues together with the potential for reduced operating and maintenance costs due to greater efficiency and fewer cylinders than a medium speed dual fuel diesel configuration, and reduced sensitivity to gas quality.

“Despite these advantages, the LNG shipping industry has moved slowly toward ME-GI engines. This is in part due to concern over the need for a high gas injection pressure which has high pressure pipes of 250 to 350 bar pressure running through the engine room” Akiyama explains. “ABS has participated in a number of Hazard Identification and other studies and is working with engine manufacturers and with shipyards to identify and mitigate the risks associated with these high pressure fuel gas system arrangements. We expect that LNG carriers with ME-GI engines could be ordered within a year.”

ABS has also worked with containment system designer Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT) and a number of Asian shipyards on sloshing assessments in LNG membrane containment systems and has developed acceptance criteria based on a risk-versus reliability approach. The society is also working with GTT and shipyard design offices on enhanced membrane containment systems which can reduce the boil-off rate of LNG cargo during the voyage.

In addition, a number of new concept designs have been developed mostly by Korean shipyards for LNG carriers and Floating LNG (FLNG) applications. ABS has been requested to perform Approval in Principal (AIP) for these designs, Mr Akiyama says.

“We have been working closely with ABS Corporate Technology and the ABS Survey department and issued an AIP statement, AIP certificate, mock-up certificate for various new containment systems developed by Korean shipyards.”

The potential of LNG as a marine fuel continues to draw interest from owners and ABS is working on a number of projects studying this application, particularly in the containership segment. Another new project also underway is for a concept design of an LNG barge to be used for bunkering to LNG-fueled ships offshore.

The future development of floating LNG terminals is also attracting attention and Mr Akiyama says there are many projects in the pipeline. ABS has recently updated its Guide for Building and Classing Floating Offshore Liquefied Gas Terminals and has conducted AIP for a number of proposed FLNG projects in recent years. In 2011, ABS took part in the front-end engineering design study for Petrobras FLNG and is also working on an FLNG project in Indonesia as well as the conversion of an existing LNG carrier to FSO for operation in Malaysia.

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