S'pore conducts Asia's first ship-to-container ship LNG bunkering operation

The push to adopt cleaner fuels in the maritime sector in Singapore reached a major milestone yesterday, as it became the first port in Asia to allow larger ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be refuelled by another ship.

From 4am until late last night, the CMA CGM Scandola container ship was supplied with 7,100 cubic m of LNG by Singapore's first LNG bunkering vessel, the FueLNG Bellina. The operation took place even as the larger vessel loaded and unloaded cargo at Pasir Panjang Terminal.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat, who attended the event, said this is Asia's first ship-to-ship LNG bunkering operation with simultaneous cargo operations. Singapore is already the world's largest marine refuelling hub, selling close to 50 million tonnes of bunker fuel each year, and yesterday's operation contributes to its ambition of becoming a global LNG bunkering hub, he added.

CMA CGM Asia-Pacific chief executive Stephane Courquin said the CMA CGM Scandola is the first of six new LNG-powered container ships with capacities of 15,000 TEU, or twenty-foot equivalent unit containers, that will bunker in Singapore this year.

The ship set sail for the Mediterranean after being refuelled, with more than 14,800 containers comprising household goods, electronics, machinery and personal protective equipment.

Mr Chee said the use of more sustainable fuels is a key element in the shipping sector's decarbonisation strategy. While he acknowledged that LNG is not perfect and still has carbon emissions, he said it is a viable transitional fuel.

LNG produces 20 per cent less carbon dioxide compared with traditional marine fuels and has close to zero sulphur emissions.

Mr Chee added that the switch to LNG is a step towards meeting the International Maritime Organisation's goal of halving the shipping industry's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 2008 levels, but this cannot happen overnight.

"We are actively working with industry partners and research institutions to try and find even better, even cleaner fuel sources. In order for these solutions to be commercially viable, it will take time."

Besides cleaner fuels, the maritime sector is also looking at reducing emissions in other parts of the supply chain, such as port operations and logistics, he said.

"If we can do this well, it is actually a win-win. It's good for the environment and it is also good for business because you reduce wastage, you improve efficiency and you cut down on waiting times."

Yesterday's LNG bunkering operation was the FueLNG Bellina's first. It is scheduled to bunker more container ships and tankers in the coming months.

FueLNG, a joint venture between Keppel Offshore and Marine and Shell Eastern Petroleum, expects to conduct 30 to 50 ship-to-ship bunkering operations this year. This is on top of the more than 300 truck-to-ship LNG bunkering operations it has conducted for smaller ships like tugboats since 2017.

FueLNG chairman and Keppel Offshore and Marine chief executive Chris Ong said: "With the commencement of ship-to-ship bunkering in Singapore this year, we anticipate annual LNG bunkering volumes can increase by 80 to 90 times."

Shell Singapore chairman Aw Kah Peng said it is imperative that the shipping sector immediately deploys the cleanest fuels available. "In many ways, we are still just at the beginning of seeing what is possible because there is more that needs to be done to rapidly scale the use of LNG in shipping."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore conducts Asia's first ship-to-container ship LNG bunkering operation'. Subscribe