Low crude oil prices have ‘partially eclipsed’ the cost benefits of adopting LNG as a marine fuel, however, as it is unknown for how long will they linger shipowners need to decide on their next step, Mark Bell, general manager of the Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF) said while speaking at London International Shipping Week.
“The shipowner has to make a decision about what he is going to do next: it is no mean feat,” Bell said during the Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement forum, ‘LNG as a Marine Fuel: Addressing the Challenges’.
“For the ship owner, it is price, price, price. But what about afterwards – for example, the long-term maintenance, etc.,” Bell explained.
Since there is uncertainty on how long these prices are to remain low, Bill is of the opinion that shipowners need to think long-term and seize the benefits offered by LNG in that respect.
“The results are very good, so much so that manufacturers are saying you can have longer periods between overhauls,” he went on to say.
Being a relevantly young sector, the LNG industry faces several challenges at the moment with respect to rules and regulations, safety and public perception, ship types, technology, performance and the environment. This means that the performance benefits of using LNG are yet to be fully realised, but this cannot take place without greater adoption across the board.
“The safety track record of the industry is second to none – and it needs to be maintained as second to none. Like it or lump it, if there is one incident involving this commodity as a fuel, it would hit the headlines straight away.”
In terms of public perception, there is a job to be done to maintain safety record and get the message across, he said.
“At the end of the day, it is a gut feeling, I am going to go for it. And those who have put their hands in their pockets find themselves in a position to outgun the opposition.
“A lot of projects in Scandinavia have been done with significant funding from organisations to kick start them. But now we are seeing larger organisations putting their hands in their own pockets.
“The public at large and the world at large are asking maritime to clean up its act. Owners are saying – how about low-sulphur fuels, where can I get them from 2020? But if there is a hint that the low-sulphur limit might be postponed by the IMO, the EU will come back and say there will be an eco-zone for Europe. That will change the face of maritime history,” he said.
According to Bell, the members of SGMF now have 50-60 LNG-fuelled ships in service, with as many again on order or under construction.