The main fuel for ships changed from coal to petroleum such as heavy fuel oil (HFO) 100 years ago. Now, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is rapidly emerging as their next main fuel.
This is related to international efforts for pollutant reduction. In 2012, the International Maritime Organization designated certain sea areas like the Baltic Sea and the North Sea as emission control areas so that conventional fuels cannot be used there. Low-sulfur oil, marine diesel oil and gasoline can be used as alternative fuels, but these have their own limitations in terms of price and supply stability.
Those in the shipping and shipbuilding industries are recommending LNG as the most environment-friendly and economical marine fuel. North European countries, Japan, Singapore, China and the United States are already working on relevant infrastructures and regulations. For instance, Norway built the world’s first LNG-fueled coastal liner in 2000 and is currently running 14 LNG-fueled ships, second to none in the world. According to Lloyd’s Register, the size of the global market covering the building and renovation of LNG-powered vessels is expected to grow from six trillion won to no less than 148 trillion won between 2014 and 2025.
Under the circumstances, the South Korean government is also improving its relevant systems and building an infrastructure so that more LNG-powered ships and LNG bunkering vessels can be in use. At present, South Korean shipbuilders are excellent at building LNG carriers, LNG-fueled ships and LNG bunkering shuttles but still have a way to go when it comes to the remodeling of LNG-powered ships and LNG bunkering infrastructure.
In this regard, the South Korean government came up with some industrial promotion plans in November last year. A series of pilot projects, infrastructure expansion and manpower training are scheduled to follow based on the plans. In addition, the Korea Research Institute of Ships & Ocean Engineering has worked since 2014 on LNG bunkering equipment and a floating LNG bunkering terminal allowing simultaneous natural gas supply and unloading by an LNG supply ship and a bunkering shuttle.