The keel for the first of two new LNG-powered RoRo-containerships, or “ConRo’s”, for Crowley Maritime Corp.’s line service group was laid Wednesday at VT Halter Marine’s shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, marking a major milestone in the construction of the Commitment-class ships.
VT Halter Marine and Crowley entered into a contract for the pair of ConRo’s – a combination container and Roll-On/Roll-off ship – in November 2013 and construction began with the first steel plate cutting in Pascagoula on October 22, 2014. The keel laying ceremony marked the next step in the construction of the Jones Act ships, which will exclusively serve the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico trade lane.
“A long-standing tradition, the keel laying marks the ceremonial beginning of the ship’s construction,” said Crowley’s Todd Busch, senior vice president and general manager, technical services. “The keel forms the backbone of a ship and is the first part of the ship to be constructed. We at Crowley are very excited to begin the construction process for these technically advanced ships.”
The Commitment-Class ships have been designed to maximize the carriage of 53-foot, 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 (beam), have a deep draft of 10 meters, and an approximate deadweight capacity of 26,500 metric tons. Cargo capacity will be approximately 2,400 TEUs, with additional space for nearly 400 vehicles in an enclosed Roll-on/Roll-off garage.
With the main propulsion and auxiliary engines fueled by environmentally-friendly liquified natural gas, the Crowley 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).
The ship design is provided by Wartsila Ship Design in conjunction with Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime, a leading Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering firm.
“This keel laying is a major milestone event in the construction schedule for the Crowley Commitment-Class program,” said Bill Skinner, chief executive officer, VT Halter Marine. “We are pleased that construction is underway for this very significant vessel. We are most grateful to our valued customer, Crowley, for their continued confidence in VT Halter Marine.”
Crowley became part of a growing list of U.S. operators opting for clean burning LNG in the Jones Act market when it ordered the “groundbreaking” ships in November 2013, marking the first order ever for LNG-powered ConRo ships. LNG is a stable gas that is neither toxic nor corrosive and is lighter than air. It is the cleanest fossil fuel available, netting a 100-percent reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) and particulate matter (PM), and a 92-percent reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx). LNG also has the ability to significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2), a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, as compared with conventional fossil fuels.
Crowley has said that designing, building and operating LNG-powered vessels is very much in line with its overall EcoStewardship© positioning and growth strategy. The company formed an LNG services group in 2014 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.
The two Commitment-Class ships will replace Crowley’s towed triple-deck barge fleet in the South Atlantic trade, which has served the trade continuously and with distinction since the early 1970s. These new ships, which will be named El Coquí (ko-kee) and Taíno (tahy-noh), will offer customers fast ocean transit times – with speeds up to 22 knots – while accommodating the Crowley’s diverse equipment selection and cargo handling flexibility.
El Coquí and Taíno are scheduled for delivery during the second and fourth quarter 2017 respectively.
In attendance at the ceremony were Crowley’s Todd Busch, senior vice president and general manager, technical services; Tucker Gilliam, vice president, special projects; Ray Martus, vice president, construction management; and Cole Cosgrove, vice president, marine operations.