LNG VESSELS ADVANCE in n-america master

LNG vessels advance in North America

Totem Ocean Trailer Express is one of the latest North American shipping companies to opt for Wärtsilä’s proven LNG technology. It will be used to deliver the goods that drive the economy of Alaska.


Totem Ocean Trailer Express (Totem Ocean) has announced that Wärtsilä will supply main engines, generators and integrated LNG storage and fuel gas handling systems (LNGPac™) for the largest LNG conversions ever undertaken in North America.

John Parrott, President of Totem Ocean, said that Wärtsilä’s proven technology was a deciding factor in selecting the company. Parrott emphasized that “maintaining reliable, on time service is critical to Totem Ocean’s customers as well as the economy and citizens of Alaska.”

Totem Ocean is a privately owned company that provides shipping between the ports of Tacoma in Washington and Anchorage in Alaska. “It transports about one third of all the goods required by the inhabitants of Alaska,” says Quentin Stewart, Sales Manager, Ship Power, Wärtsilä North America Inc. “This includes food, household items, vehicles, construction materials and AAFES, the government agency that supplies merchandise to the army and air force.”  

Totem Ocean operates a fleet of two roll-on/roll-off cargo ships – MV Midnight Sun and MV North Star. The Orca Class vessels are designed to easily accommodate large high-cube equipment like trailers, up to the length of 53 feet.

The Midnight Sun and North Star were designed and constructed by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company of San Diego, California. The Midnight Sun entered service in April 2003 and the North Star in August 2003. The overall length of the vessels is 839 feet and they have a beam of 118 feet. At 90 percent MCR their speed is 24 knots. The trailer capacity of the vessels is 600 FEU and auto capacity 220. The vessels have 13 internal ramps.

“Today marks the beginning of a long relationship between our two companies,” said Totem Ocean President John Parrott when signing the contract with Wärtsilä. ”Our relationship will outlast this project to extend over the 35-plus year life of our vessels.”

Tough ships for tough conditions

The competitive edge of Totem Ocean is the quality of the service. The company promises its customers that their goods will arrive at the destination port damage-free and on time. The performance to schedule report of Totem Ocean shows that they have succeeded in keeping their schedules to almost one hundred percent.

“The key to Totem Ocean´s success is the reliability of their vessels,” Stewart says. “Wärtsilä’s proven technology will ensure that these two vessels continue to maintain their track record for exceptional on-time performance in the future.” 

“The Midnight Sun and North Star were purpose-designed and built to conquer the tough conditions encountered in the Gulf of Alaska where the ships have to push their way through 1440 nautical miles of ice, high seas, heavy storms, cold, fog and tidal mischief. Until now they have been equipped with MAN four-stroke diesel-electric engines and Wärtsilä propellers and seals. They are well built and well maintained, a testament to the mariners who have sailed upon them and Tote’s enduring commitment to quality.”  

For the benefit of environment

Environmental issues have been always one of the top priorities of Totem Ocean.  They have implemented many environmental initiatives over the years, in order to maintain the pristine and environmentally sensitive areas these vessels serve.  

The North American Emission Control Area took effect in August 2012 and no more than one percent sulphur is allowed in fuel. Totem Ocean Trailer Express responded with a decision to improve its already high level environmental performance and to convert its vessels to alternative fuels in 2012. 


The permit was issued by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) under the authority provided in Regulation 3 of MARPOL Annex VI. The permit was a product of a public-private partnership between Totem Ocean Trailer Express, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the USCG. It enabled the conversion of M.V. Midnight Sun and M.V. North Star to use Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as their primary fuel.

“As a result of the conversion the Totem Ocean vessels will set new standards for environmental responsibility by reducing emissions in the categories of sulphur oxide (SOx), particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2),” says Stewart. 

Not only components but integrated systems

Each of the vessels will be equipped with four 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF main engines in V-configuration and generator sets. Wärtsilä will also provide the vessels with two 1100 m³ LNG fuel storage tanks and the associated automation and fuel gas handling systems.

The 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF engines in V-configuration have been designed to give high output combined with fuel flexibility, low emissions, efficiency and reliability. The engine can be run either on natural gas, light fuel oil or heavy fuel oil. It provides the same output regardless of the fuel and it can smoothly switch between the various fuels during operation without any effect on plant output.

The engine operates on the lean-burn principle, which allows a high compression ratio. This increases engine efficiency and reduces peak temperatures and emissions.

Both the gas admission and pilot fuel injection are electronically controlled. The engine functions are controlled by an advanced automation system that allows optimal running conditions to be set, independent of the ambient conditions or fuel type.

In addition to the equipment, Wärtsilä will handle the design, engineering and integration of the system, and also project and site management for its scope of supply. The LNG tanks will be the largest C type tanks ever to be retrofitted on a ship. Furthermore, M.V. Midnight Sun and M.V. North Star will be the first and largest vessels ever to be converted to LNG fuel in the North American market.

A trendsetter in maritime business

The conversion of M.V. Midnight Sun and M.V. North Star to LNG allows Totem Ocean long-term access to energy and enables it to provide a dependable, environmentally responsible service to the people of Alaska. At the same time it will open doors for other ship owners and markets to realize the benefits of LNG. 

Press release published 18 February 2014

Wärtsilä 50DF

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