TOTE Picks Keppel for Orca-class LNG Conversions

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 28
August 5, 2015

Illustration: Totem Ocean


Totem Ocean Trailer Express (Totem Ocean), part of U.S. domestic carrier TOTE Maritime, has finally selected a shipyard and revealed new details about the conversion of its first Orca-class roll-on/roll-off cargo ship to dual fuel liquified natural gas (LNG) propulsion.

Totem Ocean announced Wednesday that it has signed a contract with Singapore’s Keppel Shipyard Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Keppel Offshore & Marine, for the conversion of the diesel-electric Midnight Star to LNG, which the company describes as the world’s first major conversion of a large RO/RO vessel to liquified natural gas.

Work is expected begin in December and is expected to be completed in 90 days.

Totem Ocean first revealed the conversions in August 2012 after receiving a conditional waiver for ECA fuel sulfur content requirements while the company pursued the conversion of its two Orca-class vessels to alternative fuel, namely LNG.

Totem Ocean says that the conversion of the Midnight Sun to LNG significantly reduces air and greenhouse gas emissions, reducing emissions of particulate matter by 91 percent, NOx by 100 percent, SOx by 90 percent and carbon dioxide by 35 percent.

Midnight Sun’s sister ship, the North Star, is expected to be converted in the 2016-2017, the company said.

“Totem Ocean is excited to partner with Keppel for the conversion of the Midnight Sun, enabling her to operate on natural gas” commented John Parrott, President of Totem Ocean. “The removal and replacement of the four engines, adding 2,200 cubic meters of LNG capacity along with the addition of 47 kilometers of new cabling is a complex undertaking, and we are confident that Keppel will provide safe, timely, high-quality work to ensure the best outcome for Totem Ocean and our customers.”

Last year, Totem Ocean signed a contract with Finnish power company Wärtsilä to supply the Orca ships with four 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF dual-fuel engines each and generator sets that can run on either natural gas, light fuel oil or heavy fuel oil. Wärtsilä will also supply the vessels with two 1100 m³ LNG fuel storage tanks and the associated automaton and fuel gas handling systems.

Puget Sound Energy, in partnership with Totem Ocean and the Port of Tacoma, has plans to construct an LNG liquefaction terminal at the Port that will serve Totem Ocean, Puget Sound residents and the broader transportation industry in the Pacific Northwest. This facility is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2018.

In the short term, Tote and its partner WesPac are building North America’s first LNG bunker barge to deliver fuel to Tote’s newfound LNG fleet. The barge is expected to be delivered in early 2016. The barge will initially be deployed in Tacoma, Washington, but will eventually be relocated to Jacksonville, Florida. 

The 839-foot Orca-class ships were purpose-built for the Alaska trade in 2003 and operate between Tacoma, Washington, and Anchorage, Alaska. They were originally designed and built by NASSCO in San Diego. NASSCO was also selected to design the LNG conversions.

Before today’s announcement no official timeline had been given for completion of the ships.

Totem Maritime is part of the TOTE, Inc. (a subsidiary of Seattle-based Saltchuk), which later this year will begin operating the world’s first LNG-powered containership, the Isla Bella, in the Puerto Rico trade. The Isla Bella is part of Tote Inc.’s 3,100 TEU Marlin-class and was launched in April 2015 at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, where the vessel was constructed.

Tote Maritime, through its operating companies Sea Star Line (its Puerto Rico and Caribbean carrier) and Totem Ocean Trailer Express, have been operating in the Jones Act trade since 1975.

Totem Ocean says that the two Orca ships transport about one-third of all the goods required by the inhabitants of Alaska, includining essential items such as food, household goods, vehicles, construction materials and military supply support.

Orca LNG Configuration 

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All illustrations courtesy Totem Ocean

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