Japan In Green Race Against Chinese and South Korean Rivals


Japan’s Imabari Shipbuilding aims to launch a cargo vessel that runs entirely on ammonia by 2026, reports NikkeiAsia.

Decarbonization efforts

With decarbonization emerging as a priority in the traditionally emissions-heavy shipping industry, Japan’s Imabari Shipbuilding aims to launch a cargo vessel that runs entirely on ammonia by 2026, the fuel is considered a green energy resource.

It will be built at Imabari’s Saijo shipyard in Ehime Prefecture. Imabari looks to take a lead in the cutting-edge field both in terms of technology and rule-setting, possibly regaining some of Japan’s market share in shipbuilding lost to China and South Korea over the last several decades.

Newly developed storage tank

Imabari’s new ship will have plenty of cargo space as well as a newly developed storage tank that prevents the ammonia from evaporating. Since ammonia tanks need to be extremely airtight, Imabari’s ship is expected to cost at least 30% more to build. 

Japanese players are now also feeling the heat in next-generation cargo ships, with rivals like China’s state-owned Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company and South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries believed to be making inroads with ammonia.

What is the next move?

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines plans to acquire an ammonia-powered vessel in 2028, two years ahead of its previous schedule. It will invest 900 billion yen ($8.18 billion) by 2035 to create a 110-vessel fleet running on ammonia and other next-generation fuels.

“The development of ammonia-fueled ships is advancing faster than expected, and we may be able to adopt the technology before 2034,” said Takaya Soga, senior managing executive officer at Nippon Yusen. The maritime shipper hopes to deploy an ammonia-fueled car carrier as early as fiscal 2029.

LNG the fuel of choice?

LNG is currently the fuel of choice for fielding green ships. LNG emits 20 to 30% less carbon dioxide than fuel oil. But as the marine shipping market has slumped in the recent past, “Japanese shippers have stalled in deploying” LNG ships, said a source at Imabari. China has meanwhile expanded the adoption of LNG ships with almost all container ships using that fuel.

Japan’s ability to take the lead in launching eco-friendly ships for the next generation will likely determine whether the national shipbuilding industry will sink or stay afloat.

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Source: Nikkie Asia


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