Can LNG-Powered Ships Help Decarbonization?

The shipping industry is constantly on a lookout for new fuels to cut down the industry’s carbon footprint. These efforts are in line with the global marine regulator, the International Maritime Organization, which is set to cut carbon emissions by half compared to the 2008 levels.

With constant calls for environmental preservation, vessel operators are under growing pressure, and the most prominent shipping customers are asking for proof that their cargoes are moved on cleaner ships.

Many shipowners find that the oceangoing vessels will be powered by natural gas in the coming years. France’s CMA CGM SA placed a recent order for 22 ships that are expected to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), which includes nine mega-ships that will be among the world’s biggest cargo vessels.

Vice President at CMA CGM, Xavier Leclercq stated that they were convinced that LNG would be a key factor in their business. He added that the big ones like IKEA, Walmart, Amazon, and Nike were asking them for solutions in decarbonizing.

Other LNG-powered ships, which are big carriers include NYK Line (Japan), Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (Japan), MISC Berhad (Malaysia), Teekay Group (New York-listed tanker operator), and crude and gas transporter BW Group (Norway- and Singapore-based).

The big carriers throwing in huge investments behind LNG is still debated on grounds of how it will help them achieve a carbon-free future. LNG is a fossil fuel, and its use won’t help to meet the IMO threshold. A Norway-based ship classification firm estimates the use of LNG reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 20%.

Mr. Leclercq stated that he saw LNG as the best available solution over the next 20 years. According to data by VesselsValue, there are only 746 LNG-powered ships in use and another 243 on order. However, the lack of alternative fuels meant that hundreds of more LNG-powered ships could be built in the coming years. Mr. Leclercq stated that if they wanted to power an oceangoing box ship with batteries today it would take 146% of the cargo space.

In reality, the IMO still hasn’t taken a position on LNG, but the fuel’s use is a part of its deliberations. LNG is a requirement for ship operators towards decarbonization, even though it may not get them to their destination.

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