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Rotterdam LNG bunkering surges again

Sales of gas as a marine fuel close to double in just three months at Europe’s biggest port

The use of LNG to fuel ships, or LNG bunkering, in Europe’s largest port of Rotterdam nearly doubled in the third quarter, compared to just the previous three months, to 11,075t, latest data from the port authority shows. Volumes have risen substantially this year as the marine industry begins a shift to less polluting fuels.

Rotterdam’s throughput in the first nine months of this year of 22,747t of LNG for bunkering is more than double the volumes seen in the previous three years combined (see FIG 1), as the shipping industry increasingly begins to use LNG as part of its response to January’s IM0 2020 regulations change.

The Port of Rotterdam, which in 2013 was Europe’s first port to permit regulated LNG bunkering services, is an obvious first mover, as it is one of the world’s largest bunkering ports and has the large-scale Gate LNG facility on site. It targets LNG bunkering volumes of 30,000t this year, a 300pc year-on-year increase and a figure that it might even exceed, says the port’s business manager for LNG, Maud Eijgendaal. By 2025-30 she predicts LNG bunkering in the port to hit 1mn t/yr.

“We see growth throughout all our segments,” says Eijgendaal, adding that next year may blow all previous statistics out of the water if container shipper CMA CGM decides to bunker its new fleet of LNG-fuelled vessels in Rotterdam. The French company is launching nine ultra-large container ships propelled by LNG next year, the first of their kind, with 300,000t/yr LNG requirement. “If that amount will be bunkered through Rotterdam in total then that will of course [result in] a big increase,” says Eijgendaal.

CMA CGM has a ten-year agreement with Total to supply the new container ships—which are set to serve the company’s Asia-northern Europe route— with LNG. In response, Total last month launched its first LNG bunkering vessel, a vast 18,600m³ ship itself fuelled by LNG, which will operate in northern Europe from next year.

Titan LNG, a Dutch provider of LNG bunkering services also active in the port of Rotterdam, has seen a recent rise in demand for its services in the harbour due to additional shuttle tankers and a container ship fuelled by LNG. “Next year, we expect the market to [continue to] grow as some of the order book for LNG-powered vessels will become operational by then,” says Michael Schaap, commercial director, marine at Titan LNG.

At the beginning of November, the firm launched the first LNG bunkering service in the Dutch port of Ijmuiden, northwest of Amsterdam, fuelling a crane vessel with LNG sourced via truck from the Gate LNG terminal in the port of Rotterdam.

For the Port of Rotterdam, a booming LNG bunkering business comes at a convenient time as the use of traditional fuel oil for bunkering dropped to the lowest quarterly level in at least four years in the third quarter, port data shows. A total of just under 1.7mn m³ of fuel oil was bunkered in Rotterdam last quarter, the second consecutive quarterly drop and down by 13pc from the third quarter of last year.

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