Continuing interest by U.S. shipping companies in natural gas to power ships was highlighted by the announcement by General Dynamic's NASSCO shipyard in San Diego last week that four, 50,000 DWT Jones Act product tankers that it is building for American Petroleum Tankers will be "LNG-conversion-ready." The contract includes options to build four additional ships.
Construction of the first tanker is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2014, with deliveries scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2015 and continuing through 2016.
The 610-foot-long tankers are a new “ECO” design that offers improved fuel efficiency and incorporates the latest environmental protection features, including a ballast water treatment system.
The ships will be designed by the DSEC subsidiary of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of Busan, South Korea.
The design achieves improved fuel efficiency through several features, including a G-series MAN ME slow-speed main engine and an optimized hull form.
The tankers will have dual-fuel-capable auxiliary engines and the ability to accommodate future installation of an LNG fuel-gas system. The ECO-class tankers represent the continuation of NASSCO’s successful partnership with DSEC, which was a partner on the five "State"-class product tankers that NASSCO built for APT in 2007-2010.
Rob Kurz, chief executive officer of PT, said that the "investment demonstrates our continued
commitment to building and operating ships for the U.S. Jones Act trade." APT is a company majority owned by funds managed by Blackstone on behalf of its investors.
The Jones Act shipping company TOTE has placed orders with NASSCO to converting two trailer ships that operate between Tacoma and Anchorage to run on natural gas and has also ordered from NASSCO two new LNG-powered containerships for the TOTE subsidiary Sea Star which operates between the mainland and Puerto Rico.
Kurz added that APT was the first tanker company in the U.S. to order tankers that are LNG conversion ready.
"I think most owners will be looking at that seriously in the future once there is a legitimate LNG bunkering infrastructure in place in the United States," he said. "I think it is the wave of the future." - Chris Dupin