Crowley Maritime said it will build two new self-propelled container/roll-on, roll-off ships for the trade between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico.
The 26,500-DWT ships will have a cargo capacity of approximately 2,400 TEU, with additional space for nearly 400 vehicles. The main propulsion and auxiliary engines will use liquefied natural gas as fuel. The ships are being built by VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Miss., and are due to be delivered in the second and fourth quarter of 2017.
Crowley did not disclose the cost of the ships, but the Mississippi Press quoted the chief executive of VT Halter Marine as saying the two ships will be built at a cost of $350 million, VT Halter is currently building a container/ro-ro ship for Pasha to move containers and vehicles between California and Hawaii.
In addition to standard ISO marine containers, the ships will be capable of carrying domestic containers that are 102 inches wide and 53 feet or 45 feet long.
The two ships will replace six roll-on roll-off towed barges that Crowley currently operates between Jacksonville and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Four of those triple-deck barges are 100 feet wide by 730 feet long, and two are 100 feet wide and 580 feet long.
Tom Crowley, the chairman and chief executive officer of Crowley, said the company is naming the new design the "commitment class" to reflect the company's commitment to customers, the environment, and the U.S. merchant marine and Jones Act trade.
Tucker Gilliam, vice president of special projects, said that the faster speed of the ships and their greater capacity will allow Crowley to actually increase its capacity on the route. The barges that Crowley currently operates take six days to travel from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico, and the new ships will be able to complete the voyage in two and a half days.
He said Crowley will continue to operate two towed, triple-deck barges between its terminal in Pennsauken, N.J., and San Juan.
Crowley said the new ships will be named El Coquí
(ko-kee), the common name for several species of small frogs that are native to Puerto Rico, and Taíno
(tahy-noh), the native Puerto Ricans.
Crowley, whose tugs today burn distillate fuel, said by using LNG it will be able to eliminate sulfur oxides and particulate matter emissions and reduce nitrogen oxides by 92 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well.
Gilliam said the closed vehicle decks will be able to carry oversize ro-ro vehicles such as buses as well as automobiles, and offer a quality of transportation comparable to that offered by operators of pure car truck carriers (PCTCs). Today, Crowley transports cars on the inboard lanes of its triple deck barges. This offers good protection, but Gilliam said said in rough seas, they might be exposed to ocean spray or rain.
The ships were designed by Warstila Ship Design and Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime, a Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering firm. Jensen will also provide construction management and supervision in the shipyard throughout the building phase.
“When we sat down with Jensen and Wartsila to design these ships, we started with a clean slate to address and incorporate the specific needs of the Puerto Rico market,” said John Hourihan, senior vice president and general manager, Puerto Rico and Caribbean services. “We are very excited to add faster transit times to our existing service offerings while maintaining our ability to handle 53-foot and refrigerated equipment that so many of our customers have come to rely on.
“We also understand what our car customers want, so we are pleased that these vessels will be the only ones in the trade to offer vehicle transportation in completely enclosed, ventilated, weather-tight decks,” he said. “Coupled with the LNG fuel, customers can take satisfaction in that they are getting faster, more reliable service, while reducing the amount of CO2 emissions attributable to each container by approximately 38 percent."
Crowley is the latest in a series of U.S. shipping companies building new vessels that can be fueled LNG. Sea Star, Crowley's competitor in the Puerto Rico trade, is building two ships that will use LNG, and Sea Star's sister company, Totem Ocean Trailer Express, is putting new engines in the two ro-ro ships that it operates between Tacoma and Anchorage so they can burn LNG.
Matson ordered two new ships this month from Aker Philadelphia shipyard for its Puerto Rico service that will be capable of being fueled with LNG. And the Maritime Administration has awarded a $900,000 grant to Horizon Lines to assist it in converting one of its ships in service between Los Angeles and Hawaii to run on LNG.