Ulsan port seeks LNG-fuelled tugs

Ulsan Port Authority plans to replace its old tugs with LNG-fuelled tugs. Credit: Ulsan Port Authority
Ulsan Port Authority plans to replace its old tugs with LNG-fuelled tugs. Credit: Ulsan Port Authority

Ulsan Port Authority (UPA) plans to replace its old tugs with liquefied natural gas- (LNG)-fuelled tugs.

The South Korean government has recently unveiled incentives to assist in the development of LNG bunkering, including the construction of LNG-fuelled ships.

UPA said that tugs have been highlighted as a major source of air pollution and particulate matter due to high emissions resulting from engine output.

The authority will conduct a feasibility study for the replacement of tugs that are at least 20 years old and the study will review the financial aid and potential shipyards.

Ulsan, which is expanding to become the energy hub of Northeast Asia, also wants to be a pioneer in introducing LNG bunkers in South Korea.

“Having LNG bunkering is inevitable if we’re to become an energy hub. With service vessels taking the lead in the transition to LNG bunkers, we can go further to build LNG bunkering facilities,” UPA said.

Many Asian countries are looking to launch LNG bunkering to be compliant with the International Maritime Organization’s implementation of a global sulphur cap of 0.5% in marine fuels from 2020.

However, the main challenges facing Asia’s road to LNG bunkering are the higher prices of LNG-fuelled ships and the lack of infrastructure. This has necessitated government assistance.

In January, Mitsui OSK Lines signed a contract with compatriot shipbuilder Kanagawa Dockyard for an LNG-fuelled tug that will be placed on long-term charter with Nihon Tugboat.

In Singapore, local tug operators Keppel SMIT Towage and Maju Maritime each placed orders for an LNG-fuelled tug from Keppel Corporation unit Keppel Offshore & Marine in October 2016. The tugs are scheduled for completion this year, with a launch ceremony held for KST Liberty, the tug commissioned by Keppel SMIT Towage on 25 April.

PSA Marine, the tug operating arm of Singapore-based terminal operator PSA International, has ordered two LNG-fuelled tugs from PaxOcean Shipyard Co, Ltd, for delivery in 2019. Finnish engine maker Wärtsilä is designing and equipping these tugs.