Crowley Orders World’s First LNG-Powered ConRo Vessels

Renderings of Crowley's new Commitment Class, LNG-Powered, ConRo Vessel. Image (c) Crowley Maritime Corp.
Renderings of Crowley’s new Commitment Class, LNG-Powered, ConRo Vessel. Image (c) Crowley Maritime Corp.

Jacksonville, Florida-based Crowley Maritime Corporation on Monday announced that it has placed groundbreaking order for a pair of LNG-powered RoRo-containerships, becoming the latest in a growing list of U.S. operators opting for clean burning LNG in the Jones Act market.

Crowley said it has signed a contract with VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Mississippi to build two of the world’s first LNG-powered ConRo ships to provide Jones Act service between the United States mainland and Puerto Rico.

CrowleyMaritime_CommitmentClass_elcoqui_rearThe so-called Commitment Class vessels are designed to travel at speeds up to 22 knots, carry containers ranging in size from 20-foot standard to 53-foot-long units, and hundreds of vehicles in enclosed, weather-tight car decking. The ships, to be named El Coquí (ko-kee) and Taíno (tahy-noh), are scheduled for delivery in second and fourth quarter 2017 and will replace Crowley’s towed triple-deck barge fleet, which has served the trade continuously since the early 1970s.

“Our investment in these new ships – the first of their kind in the world – is significant on so many fronts,” said Tom Crowley, company chairman and CEO. “We named them the Commitment Class of ships because they represent our commitment to our customers and the people of Puerto Rico whom we will continue to serve for years to come with the superior service they expect from Crowley.”

“Second, it reflects Crowley’s commitment to EcoStewardship© in that we are developing and using best-available technology that allows for improved emissions, advanced ballast water management and alternative fuel selection,” he said. “And lastly, our actions are clear evidence of our commitment to the U.S. maritime industry and the Jones Act. American built, crewed and owned ensures U.S. shipbuilding capabilities, skilled U.S. merchant seamen, and available domestic vessel tonnage, all of which are of vital importance to our national defense.”

The vessel design has been brought to life by Warstila Ship Design in conjunction with Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime, a leading Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering firm. The new double-hulled ConRo ships have been designed to maximize the carriage of 102-inch-wide containers, which offer the most cubic cargo capacity in the trade. The ships will be 219.5 meters long, 32.3 meters wide, have a deep draft of 10 meters, and an approximate deadweight capacity of 26,500 metric tonnes. Cargo capacity will be approximately 2,400 TEUs, with additional space for nearly 400 vehicles. Crowley says the main propulsion and auxiliary engines will be fueled with LNG.

“When we sat down with Jensen and Wartsila to design these ships, we started with a clean slate to address and incorporate the specific needs of the Puerto Rico market,” said John Hourihan, senior vice president and general manager, Puerto Rico and Caribbean services. “We are very excited to add faster transit times to our existing service offerings while maintaining our ability to handle 53-foot and refrigerated equipment that so many of our customers have come to rely on.”

“We also understand what our car customers want, so we are pleased that these vessels will be the only ones in the trade to offer vehicle transportation in completely-enclosed, ventilated, weather-tight decks,” he said. “Coupled with the LNG fuel, customers can take satisfaction in that they are getting faster, more reliable service, while reducing the amount of CO2 emissions attributable to each container by approximately 38 percent. This design is a win-win for the customer and for the environment.”

“Safety and environmental protection were also at the forefront of our design process,” said Johan Sperling, Jensen vice present. “For example, one of the superior safety systems we engineered included a feature that places all fuel tanks behind double-wall voids with no exposure to the environment.”

Additionally, Sperling said the ships will meet or exceed all regulatory requirements and have the CLEAN notation, which requires limitation of operational emissions and discharges, as well as the Green Passport, both issued by classification society Det Norske Veritas (DNV).

Today’s announced order is the latest display of U.S. owners’ and operators’ appetite for LNG-powered vessels in the Jones Act market, following recent orders for dual fuel containerships from Matson, which has placed orders for two 3,600 TEU vessels at Aker Philadelphia, and TOTE, which has ordered at least three 3,100 TEU vessels from NASSCO in San Diego. In addition, Horizon Lines is also planning to convert two of its steam-powered containerships to the use of dual fuel for operation between Long Beach, California and Honolulu, Hawaii.

While the switch to LNG as a marine fuel in the Jones Act market is mostly praised, some have questioned the high costs associated with building such vessels.

Crowley says that the designing, building and operating LNG powered vessels is very much in line with company’s overall EcoStewardship© positioning and growth strategy. The company formed an LNG services group earlier this year to bring together the company’s extensive resources to provide LNG vessel design and construction management; transportation; product sales and distribution, and full-scale, project management solutions.