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Market manoeuvre

A new fuel needs a new fuel infrastructure; thus far LNG suffers from its absence. Wärtsilä now aims to transform the economics of refuelling ferries and power barges with its new transport barge.

Text: RICHARD ORANGE Photo: WÄRTSILÄ

Trucks travel five hours from Rotterdam or Zeebrugge to supply LNG to Hummel, the first cold ironing power barge in the port of Hamburg. It’s hardly an ideal solution. With the number of LNG-fuelled cruise ships and power barges at the German port set to take off in 2016, Wärtsilä has designed a new transport barge that takes LNG fuelling to the next level. 

“The fuelling of the cold ironing barges by truck from Rotterdam is commercially feasible today because there are only one or two cruise ships that need clean energy in the harbours,” explains Arthur Boogaard, General Manager, Specials, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions. “But with every new technology there’s an economy of scale. If you can think of a more efficient way to serve the need, it’s better for the customer and better for the environment.”

The new barge is coupled to its tug by a semi-rigid – articulated – connection, allowing it to venture safely into the North Sea in rough weather. When connected, the tug is fuelled by LNG drawn through a flexible CNG hose from the tank, housed in a coffin-like structure on the barge’s topside.

The barge in turn receives electrical power generated by the tug’s Wärtsilä 20DF engines. This is used to power separate steerable Wärtsilä water jets, allowing the barge to manoeuvre precisely alongside ships and barges.

“It is a relatively complicated manoeuvre, to go alongside a shiny cruise ship,” Boogaard explains. “You normally need at least one tug, if not two or three, so the idea is that you have a vessel that is capable of carrying out manoeuvres in confined spaces very precisely.” 

Once the barge is in place for bunkering to take place, the tug can decouple, switching from LNG to diesel fuel, and move on to its next task, such as picking up an empty barge to return it to Rotterdam.

“You would have a ratio of, let’s say, one tug to three barges, so that the tug can be used most efficiently tugging empty barges back to Rotterdam and full barges back to Hamburg,” Boogaard explains.

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“IT IS A RELATIVELY COMPLICATED MANOEUVRE.”

Hamburg saw 168 port calls from cruise vessels in 2015, and all the cruise ship lines have plans to install LNG or dual-fuel engines on their vessels to help meet Germany’s new emissions regulations for inland waterways, which came into force in January. 

The alternative is investing in a scrubber system to take out the sulphur from the exhaust, or a selective catalytic convertor system.

Boogaard stresses that meeting new regulations was not the only driver. It’s also an image thing. “You have 4,000 passengers on board and you don’t want them to look at your funnel and see greyish, blackish smoke clouds.” 

The designs for the barge and its fuel system, which Wärtsilä began working on at the start of 2015, were approved by DNV GL, the world’s largest classification society, in November. 

The first barges are expected to supply Hamburg from Rotterdam, but Boogaard expects orders for other ports to follow too – initially as an intermediary stage in the development of LNG fuelling infrastructure, and later for convenience. Crucially, fuelling can be done discreetly, and removes the need to stop for gas on the way to the next picturesque cruise destination.

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