MOL scoops pioneering LNGBV newbuild for Total

Price, size and technology could set new trend in bunkering infrastructure as operators of deepsea vessels eye gas fuelling

Japanese shipowner MOL has secured a time-charter deal of more than 10 years to back a ground-breaking LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV) newbuilding it has ordered against a contract with Total.

A spokesperson for Total declined to be specific on the charter-hire terms for the 18,600-cbm LNGBV, which has been confirmed this week, but said the deal is for a period of more than 10 years.

Total Marine Fuels Global Solutions (TMFGS) will charter the vessel — the largest purpose-built LNGBV to date — which will be managed by MOL subsidiary MOL (Europe Africa).

No price has been given for the newbuilding, which will be constructed at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) for delivery in 2020, but sources close to the project say the ship is likely priced in the $65m to $70m region.

The Total official implied the home port of the vessel has yet to be firmed up.

“The initial purpose of this vessel will be to supply CMA CGM mega containerships,” he said, allowing them to undertake a round voyage from Asia to Europe without refuelling.

“To date, CMA CGM plans to bunker in the north of Europe because of the conjunction of the dynamism of ports close to numerous LNG terminals, with competitive tariffs allowing fast and efficient bunkering operations and offering backup solutions.”

But he said CMA CGM is also anticipating the opening of a new LNG bunkering infrastructure in Asia.

“Some major ports are dynamic in terms of LNG supply chain,” he said. “It is also necessary to choose ports close to LNG terminals, or easily accessible, in order to minimise operational risks for CMA CGM and optimise the use of the bunker vessel.

“The home of the vessel will be decided based on all those criteria.”

In another new move for LNGBVs, which have largely been kitted out with type-C cargo tanks, MOL’s newbuilding will be fitted with the Mark III membrane containment system provided by French company GTT.

"With this vessel, TMFGS intends to serve the emerging marine LNG market for the containerships segment, including those sailing on the Europe-Asia trade," Total said.

TMFGS, which signed a 10-year contract to supply 300,000 tonnes per annum of LNG as bunkers to CMA CGM in December last year, said the LNGBV will be "highly manoeuvrable", with a length of about 135 metres and will be able to operate safely in harbours and terminals.

The company said the vessel will meet the highest environmental standards via the use of LNG as fuel and a complete reliquefaction of the boil-off gas.

Total described the deal as "a significant milestone in the cooperation between MOL and TMFGS, with developments in both conventional fuels and LNG ahead of 2020 IMO sulphur regulations.

The two companies also signed a memorandum of understanding to combine their expertise in the development of marine LNG infrastructures and to serve MOL's future LNG needs.