Editorial: B.C. could lead LNG bunkering boom


The B.C. government’s support for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) marine bunkering fuel service in the Port of Vancouver deserves applause.

Investing in new refuelling infrastructure is an essential part of shifting the global marine cargo fleet to cleaner fuel alternatives. And failing to shift to cleaner fuel is not an option for marine cargo ship owners.

As reported in “Seaspan Searching For Low-Sulphur Solutions” (Business in Vancouver issue 1561; October 1–7), Vancouver-based Seaspan Corp. and other owners of global shipping fleets will, as of January, be required to abide by International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 sulphur regulations. The IMO 2020 rules will cut the allowable sulphur content of marine vessel fuel to 0.5% from the current 3.5%.

IMO 2020 compliance options for ship owners range from installing scrubbers that remove heavy fuel oil sulphur emissions to powering ships with ammonia, biodiesel, methanol or hydrogen. But many of the options are too expensive, too complicated, unproven, unsafe or currently impractical to use in large marine cargo freighters.

As with land-based transportation, one of the main challenges for ocean-going ships in shifting to alternative energy sources will be the availability of refuelling infrastructure.

LNG, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 20% compared with diesel, has the advantage here.

LNG-powered ships have been operating in global marine transportation since 2000. LNG refuelling infrastructure is therefore already widely available around the world.

Orders for more LNG-powered ships are increasing because ship owners know that installing scrubbers on older vessels is, at best, a stopgap measure, not a long-term solution.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and FortisBC’s LNG bunkering hub initiative should be duplicated in other strategic locations along the Asia-Pacific Gateway cargo chain. It is another way for the province to show leadership in reducing global transportation pollution.