Shipping major’s ambitious LNG conversion project

Shipping major Hapag-Lloyd is set to convert the 15000-TEU vessel Sajir to operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

To operate using this fuel was not as simple as flipping a switch, Richard von Berlepsch, managing director fleet management at Hapag-Lloyd, said. “You have to rethink all the equipment on a ship.”

Whenever the Sajir is in Hamburg, Hapag-Lloyd engineers or other companies with which the shipping company is collaborating on this project will go on board to take measurements of the vessel and draw up plans. “Converting the 15 000-TEU vessel will pose completely new challenges,” he said. “Whether it is figuring out where to store the LNG on board, laying the additional piping systems or treating the fuel, all of these aspects must be integrated into the overall ship in a manner which ensures that the Sajir will continue to be available for service and perform at the highest level. This, in turn, makes the conversion very complex and time-consuming for everyone involved.”

He said Hapag-Lloyd would be the first liner shipping company in the world to retrofit a container ship of this size to LNG propulsion. “This is an unprecedented pilot project, and one with which we hope to learn for the future and to pave the way for other ships of this size to be retrofitted to use this alternative fuel.”

Using LNG rather than standard heavy fuel oil reduces CO2 emissions by roughly 20 percent, and sulphur dioxide and particulate matter by more than 90 percent. Thus, on the path towards zero emissions, it is more of an interim than a final solution. In any case, it is currently the eco-friendliest fuel available, according to Von Berlepsch.

“While other shipping companies have already ordered LNG-powered newbuildings, Hapag-Lloyd has decided to convert one of its 17 so-called “LNG-ready” vessels. In mid-2020, the Sajir will go to the HuaRun DaDong Dockyard near Shanghai for three months to have its conventional engine and auxiliary engines converted into a dual-fuel system. This will enable it to burn LNG as well as low-sulphur fuel oil as a backup solution.

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