GDF Suez said the group is committed to developing LNG as a marine fuel and to expanding the LNG bunkering business “on a global scale, alongside harbour infrastructures and ship operators”.
The move comes ahead of new international regulations aimed at reducing the impact of shipping activities on the global environment. Permitted levels of sulphur oxide emissions by vessels in emission controlled areas are due to be cut further in January 2015, under regulations laid down by the International Maritime Organization.
GDF Suez said the use of LNG as a fuel for “meeting increasing environmental constraints requires a network of LNG bunkering services for vessels in main harbours, with reliable supply chains”.
The Franco-Japanese partnership is based on two initial contracts. NYK has ordered an LNG bunkering vessel, to be built in the South Korean shipyard Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co Ltd, with delivery expected by 2016. In addition, an LNG bunkering contract has been signed between GDF Suez and United European Car Carriers (UECC), a leading short-sea operator.
The new bunkering vessel’s home port will be Zeebrugge, in Belgium, where GDF Suez said it has already secured long term access rights to the Fluxys LNG terminal. The bunkering vessel will be operated by NYK and will supply a range of end-customers.
By the end of 2016, LNG will be delivered to UECC by means of ship-to-ship transfer from the new bunkering vessel at Zeebrugge, with LNG sourced from GDF Suez’s portfolio, the group said.
GDF Suez executive vice-president in charge of the company’s global gas and LNG business, Jean-Marie Dauger, said the group sees LNG “as the future of bunkering”. Dauger said: “These new agreements emphasise the group’s retail LNG strategy and demonstrates our commitment to the development of the LNG bunkering business.”
GDF Suez said it has the third largest LNG supply portfolio in the world, supplied from six countries, and representing 16 million tonnes per annum. The company controls a fleet of 14 LNG carriers under mid- and long-term charter agreements. The group also has a significant presence in regasification terminals around the world, including floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs), giving it access to downstream markets.
Lloyd’s Register’s LNG Bunkering Infrastructural Survey 2014 (33-page / 815 KB PDF), published earlier this year, indicated that LNG bunkering is likely to “develop fast as global ports get ready for shipping’s gas fuelled future”.