TOTE Revisiting Orca-Class LNG Conversions

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November 9, 2017

MV North Star. Photo: TOTE

TOTE Maritime Alaska, a division of TOTE, Inc., has announced that it will convert two of its diesel-electric roll-on/roll-off ships to dual fuel operations using liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The two vessels, ‘North Star’ and ‘Midnight Sun’, are both currently powered by four MAN 58/64 engines running on HFO. But, working with MAN Diesel & Turbo’s after-sales division on the conversion, the engines will be retrofitted to run on cleaner-burning LNG fuel.

The contract between TOTE and MAN was signed in April 2017 and covers the design, development, and testing of a first-of-its-kind dual-fuel kit.

The conversion work will take place at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyard in British Columbia, Canada. The retrofits will be completed in early 2020 and early 2021, respectively.

The projects will represent the largest LNG conversions in North America, according to TOTE.

TOTE has been working to convert the two Orca-class ships to alternative fuel since at least 2012, and in August 2015 the company announced it had selected to Keppel Shipyard in Singapore to carry out the first conversion beginning in December 2015, with the second to take place in 2016 or 2017. The project, however, was pushed back due to the loss of the MV El Faro in October 2015.

TOTE Maritime Alaska handles approximately one-third of goods transported between the continental US and Alaska. Both the North Star and Midnight Sun operate Jones Act routes between Anchorage, Alaska and Tacoma, Washington. The two Orca class ships were originally constructed by NASSCO at its San Diego yard and were commissioned in 2003.

“TOTE Maritime Alaska is excited to convert its fleet to LNG power which will result in a significant reduction in air emissions including particulate matter, sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx). This significant investment of time and money is a reflection of our commitment to the environment, our customers and the state of Alaska,” commented Michael Noone, President of TOTE Maritime Alaska.

In 2012, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, another TOTE company, ordered the world’s first LNG-powered containerships, the ‘Isla Bella’ and ‘Perla del Caribe’, which were launched in 2015. Both feature a single MAN B&W 8L70ME-GI engine.

“We have been investigating and testing many options for shifting the fleet to LNG. The conversion of the existing engines is the most reliable and beneficial solution” said Peter Keller, Executive Vice President of TOTE. “This innovative solution that has been developed in partnership with MAN, will be an important milestone for the industry as we all prepare for the IMO sulphur cap in 2020.”


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