Wednesday, September 1, 2010

As Container and Bulk Shipping Shrinks LNG Frontiers Open Up

New Technology Gas Carriers in Joint Ownership
Shipping News Feature

JAPAN – When international oil prices jumped in the 1970’s Mitsui OSK Lines cancelled tankers and moved swiftly into container shipping, just as the seemingly unstoppable rise in trade using 20’ and 40’ boxes gathered momentum. Now, with much of the world in the grip of recession, the Japanese group seem, once again, to be ahead of the game.

Although known by most freight executives today as a container carrier MOL have rebranded and changed markets several times in their long life. Now, with uncertainty surrounding both bulk and container markets the company has made some strategic changes regarding its carriage of natural gas vessels.

Tokyo LNG Tanker Co. is a company jointly owned by MOL and the Tokyo Gas Co. and today they announced that Tokyo LNG Tanker will receive a minority stake (1.5%) in two SRV companies owned by MOL (48.5% shareholders) and Höegh LNG (50%). This means Tokyo LNG Tanker have a share in two SRV vessels, the “GDF Suez Neptune” and “GDF Suez Cape Ann”, both on long term charter to serve the Neptune LNG Deep Water Port terminal off Boston on the U.S. East Coast. The Lief Höegh line was the first shipping group to venture into gas carriage and they have unrivalled experience in the field.

For those not familiar with SRV carriers (Shuttle and Regasification vessels) these ships take on liquefied natural gas (LNG) at loading terminals and upon arrival at destination, regasify it onboard, and transfer it to shore via pipelines built on the seabed. SRVs can also serve as conventional LNG carriers, transporting LNG to discharge at receiving terminals.

This versatility allows SRVs to serve LNG importing nations without requiring the construction of new or additional LNG terminals on shore, a key point for today’s emerging markets. The SRV is considered by many as a cutting edge innovative LNG transport and delivery technology.

Photo: SRV carrier “GDF Suez Neptune” after launching in 2009.