Japan Sets 2020 Start Date for Ship-to-ship LNG Bunkering



Japan has published the findings of its feasibility study into upgrading its domestic LNG-supply infrastructure, aiming to launch ship-to-ship bunkering in 2020 and positioning the Port of Yokohama as a regional LNG-bunkering hub – although it also concludes that demand for LNG-fuelled ships needs to grow.

The report suggests that annual demand for 300,000-400,000 tonnes of LNG as marine fuel would exceed available land-based supply from Sodegaura terminal in Tokyo Bay, supporting investment in additional capacity at Yokohama’s Negishi LNG terminal.  Japan would then need two LNG bunker-supply vessels.

It says “a European LNG-bunkering company invested by NYK and other companies” will launch the country’s first dedicated LNG bunker-supply ship.

NYK is a driving force in LNG bunker-supply development.  NYK, Engie of France and Mitsubishi have launched Gas4Sea to invest in LNG bunker-supply ships around the world. The partners are about to take delivery of their first LNG bunker-supply ship, a 5,000m³ vessel to be based at Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Sodegaura has a pier to reload LNG for coastal shipping, but needs to upgrade to support an LNG bunker-supply ship larger than 5,000m³.  The report calls for refurbishment to start “as soon as possible” to meet the 2020 deadline.

One proposal is to collaborate with the Port of Singapore to create complementary links in the LNG-supply chain for deepsea LNG-fuelled carriers plying the transpacific and Asia-Europe trades.  Yokohama could act as the first or last LNG bunkers-supply port for carriers sailing between east Asia and the US west coast and Singapore could be the first or last port for carriers sailing between southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean and Europe.

Japan wants to co-operate with other prospective LNG bunker-supply hubs across Asia.

The report sets a three-phase roadmap, to start truck to ship bunkering immediately, to start ship-to-ship bunkering in 2020 and to strengthen ship-to-ship supply capacity when the demand justifies it.

However, demand remains critical to Japan’s plans.  The report highlights the importance of both LNG pricing and growth in LNG-fuelled tonnage to justify investing in a supply network.

“It is important to increase the whole demand, including not only ocean-going but also coastal LNG-fuelled ships to attract ocean-going LNG-fuelled ships,” the report concludes.

It notes that “it will be necessary to secure a certain demand for LNG bunkering to establish a bunkering project as a commercial business.  It is also one of the important elements for Japan to procure LNG at low cost and supply LNG bunkering at inexpensive prices to secure demand.”

The committee, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT), was chaired by port logistics strategy office director Seizo Matsura.  Committee members included representatives from Yokohama port authority, the ministry, NYK Line, Tokyo Gas and the Japan Coast Guard.

MLIT also wants the country’s ports to build LNG-fuelled service vessels to boost home-grown demand for the cleaner-burning vessel fuel.

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SourceMLIT, LNG World Shipping