TOTE Secures Wärtsilä Technology For Orca LNG Conversions

Mike Schuler
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February 18, 2014

TOTE conversion with Wärtsilä engines and LNGPac systems. Illustration courtesy Wärtsilä

Jones Act-shipper Totem Ocean Trailer Express, a subsidiary of TOTE, Inc., has selected Finnish engine manufacturer Wärtsilä to provide the LNG propulsion package for the previously announced conversion of two diesel-electric cargo ships to run on liquefied natural gas.

In January 2013, TOTEM Ocean revealed its plans for the LNG conversion of the company’s two Orca-Class roll-on/roll-off cargo ships, MV Midnight Sun and MV North Star, in what have been called the largest LNG conversion projects ever undertaken in North America.

File photo of one of two Orca-class ships.
File photo of one of two Orca-class ships.

As part of the contract, Wärtsilä will supply each of the ships with four 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF dual-fuel engines and generator sets that can run on either natural gas, light fuel oil or heavy fuel oil. The company will also supply the vessels with two 1100 m³ LNG fuel storage tanks and the associated automaton and fuel gas handling systems (LNGPac(TM)).

In addition to the equipment, Wärtsilä is taking responsibility for the design, engineering and integration of the system, and project and site management for its scope of supply.

The shipyard where the conversions will take place has not yet been decided.

The contract with Wärtsilä was signed in the fourth quarter of 2013, and executives from both companies met on February 17, 2014 in Tacoma, Washington to announce the project.

“Today marks the beginning of a long relationship between our two companies,” said John Parrott, President of Totem Ocean. “Our relationship will outlast this project to extend over the 35-plus year life of our vessels.”

The 839 ft Orca ships, which operate between Tacoma, Washington, and Anchorage, Alaska, were designed and built by NASSCO and both delivered in 2003. The ships are responsible for transporting about one-third of all the goods required by the inhabitants of Alaska, carrying essential items such as food, household goods, vehicles, construction materials and military supply support.

The Orca-class conversions comes in addition to the historic and trendsetting newbuild order that TOTE Shipholdings placed with NASSCO in December 2012 calling for the construction of two new LNG-powered containerships. The order marked the world’s first order for newbuild containerships to run primarily on LNG and established TOTE’s reputation as leader in the use of LNG as a marine fuel in the Jones Act market.

SEE ALSO: TOTE Orders World’s First LNG-Powered Containerships

The conversion of the ships to LNG propulsion will significantly reduce or nearly eliminate the sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide (SOx, NOx, and CO2) and particulate matter from ship emissions when compared to traditional diesel fuel.

“It is an unprecedentedly exciting time to be in the maritime industry,” says Björn Rosengren, President & CEO of Wärtsilä Corporation. “Economic constraints and the need to comply with environmental legislation have combined to accelerate the switch to LNG fuel. Wärtsilä is uniquely positioned to enable this transition since we have been a leader in developing the appropriate technology for nearly 30 years. We look forward to working with TOTE on converting the Midnight Sun and North Star to LNG so that they can realize the benefits that LNG as a marine fuel can provide.”

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