gas handling throughout the chain msater

Gas handling throughout the chain

Gas is a particularly challenging type of cargo. If the conditions change on board the gas carrier, there’s a risk of the vessel arriving in port with nothing to sell.


If anything goes wrong in handling the cargo on board a gas carrier, the customer is left with nothing to trade. That is why no one can ever have a bad day when handling gas. Wärtsilä has the most extensive experience on the market, complete with the broadest portfolio of cargo handling systems for gas carriers. These come in handy in times of booming gas markets.

Wärtsilä gas cargo handling has its roots in the Kvaerner group, which entered the business in the early 1960s. In 1998, the Kvaerner gas handling business became part of the Hamworthy group, which was later acquired by Wärtsilä in 2012. This acquisition was a win-win deal for both parties: Hamworthy’s long experience in gas handling teamed up with Wärtsilä’s propulsions systems and the widest service network in the world. This winning constellation in combination with a booming gas market is now rewarded with a record-breaking order book.

Wärtsilä is the only market player that is able to be there for customers throughout the whole gas handling chain and to cater for all types of carriers, from small-size ones up to huge 300-metre vessels. This wide scope is one of the reasons why orders keep flowing in, as the cyclical world economy means some particular type of carrier is always in vogue.

The broadest offering on the market

Wärtsilä delivers cargo handling plans for all types of gas carriers from the smallest size LPG carriers for coastal transport to the biggest size LNGC’s with a capacity to carry more than 220,000 cubic metres of cargo. Since Hamworthy became part of Wärtsilä, fuel supply systems based on gas are also offered. Gas-driven propulsion and auxiliary machinery is particularly well suited for gas carriers, as cargo and fuel systems can be integrated to save energy. 

On a gas carrier, the Wärtsilä logo can be seen on a lot of equipment. In some cases, the Wärtsilä package covers more than 30 per cent of the price tag of the ship, and that figure gets closer to 40 per cent if cargo tanks are included in the delivery scope. 

Wärtsilä’s cargo handling entails everything from loading the gas at the terminal to keeping it safe during freight and unloading it at the final destination. When the cargo consists of gas, it is of utmost importance to keep it under stable conditions. After all, the ship’s owners must deliver the cargo as promised to the customer. This means that the gas in the cargo tanks must be kept at a certain temperature and pressure. These vary depending on the type of cargo. For ethylene, the required temperature can be down to -104 °C, and for LNG even down to -163 °C. To ensure that the temperature remains at the right level the cargo needs to be correctly processed during loading as well as under sail. 

Energy efficiency is crucial

Reliable and energy-efficient operation is a key issue for ship owners. Keeping the cargo cool is not only a delicate affair, but also an expensive one. The cooling process consumes substantial amounts of energy and the reliquefaction plant is by far the equipment on board with the highest power consumption. Running the compressors is also an energy-intensive affair. With increasing energy prices, energy efficiency becomes a crucial issue for ship owners in order to stay competitive. Wärtsilä has been able to improve energy efficiency by about 20 per cent during the last five years by improving the equipment and processes. 

There are a lot of safety issues involved in the handling of a gas cargo on board a ship. All rules and regulations must be followed and the carrier must be designed to secure easy and safe operation for the crew. Gas leakage can be fatal as the cargo is not only toxic but also highly flammable. Gas detection systems are always installed to detect any leakage. In addition, gas release systems are installed that can release gas to safe masts if the pressure exceeds allowed levels. Wärtsilä’s products and solutions naturally all comply with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) recommendations and regulations.


Wärtsilä has a particularly high competence when it comes to process calculations. Most processes can be covered. Innovative ship design together with the knowhow to deliver model testing of the hull and class drawings makes Wärtsilä an attractive partner to both owners and yards for developing new ship concepts. This was the case for the latest ethane carriers we delivered to transport ethane from shale gas in the US to process plants in Europe and the Far East. 

Wärtsilä’s Baltic Design Centre is a part of the organisation and an important contributor in the development of ship design and cargo tanks as well as contract execution.

Wärtsilä’s large network can cater to all types of ships. Offering aftermarket service and spare parts wherever the vessel is docking is highly valuable for ship owners. 

Korea and China in the lead

By now Wärtsilä has 85 contracts under execution for plants to be delivered to gas carriers of all types and sizes. Over 90 per cent of these contracts come from shipyards in China and Korea, which consequently constitute the main markets. Korea has been the dominant maker of gas carriers for quite some time. During the last ten years also China has entered the fray, winning success in delivering gas carriers not only serving its own massive gas market but also for export. China is a great consumer of gas both for heating power plants and for process plants for the plastic industry. Being substantially cleaner than coal and oil, gas fits well into China’s policy of battling its huge pollution problem. Currently, China and Korea both have about equal shares of the market for new gas carriers. 

Wärtsilä is currently working on its most extensive turnkey project to date, under construction in Brazil. A huge equipment and design package is being delivered to eight LPG carriers at Vard shipyard in Suape. Wärtsilä is responsible for the complete design of the ship, from model testing and calculations of ship behaviour to delivering complete cargo tanks. Complete packages for handling cargo on board the vessels are also included. The LPG carriers are being built at the shipyard in Brazil, as legislation states that all Brazil-owned ships must be built in Brazil. This adds further challenges to the project: the 500-ton gas tanks are manufactured in China and shipped to Brazil for installation on board the ships. 

Strong in innovation

As it takes about two years to build a gas carrier from scratch and Wärtsilä’s solutions for gas carriers have a delivery time of about 18 months, the Wärtsilä team needs to be included in the plans at quite an early stage. That is why a lot of effort is put into developing a thorough understanding of the market and the customer’s needs right in the first planning phase. This is essential for coming up with innovative concepts. 

Staying tuned with customers’ needs is also an important driver for innovation. Ship owners typically operate gas carriers for at least 25 years, making the cost of operation a key issue. Hence, the R&D efforts focus on ensuring low operation costs for the ship owners. Currently under work is improving big-size LPG carriers to handle LPG with ethane for exporting from the booming US market. Another important R&D focus area is using LNG fuel for the main engines and to integrate fuel system with the cargo handling for energy-saving measures. In line with tighter IMO legislation R&D projects on implementing LNG as fuel for carriers and bunkering ships are also under way.


Wärtsilä’s gas handling product and service offering includes:

  • Ship design
  • Cargo Tank Design and Manufacturing 
  • Cargo Handling System, Engineering and Equipment
  • Reliquefaction Plants
  • Fuel Gas Supply System
  • Complete propulsion system


Cargo handling for LPG tankers 

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