5-year anniversary for methanol-fuelled ferry as IMO guidelines are ready for approval

5-year anniversary for methanol-fuelled ferry as IMO guidelines are ready for approval

Stena Germanica, the first ship in the world to run on methanol as a marine fuel, has recorded five years of successful operation since this large ro-ro ferry was converted to be capable of running on the alternative clean-burning fuel.

The 240-metre long ferry, with a capacity for 1500 passengers and 300 cars, began the world’s first methanol-powered sailings between Gothenburg, Sweden and Kiel, Germany in late-March 2015.

Stena Germanica at berth in Kiel (Photo: Unni Einemo)

Sweden-based Stena, whose ferries operate mainly within emission control areas (ECAs), began looking at methanol as a clean-burning fuel alternative prior to the ECA sulphur dropping to 0.10% in 2015. Stena assessed continuous operation on marine gas oil (MGO), installing scrubbers, and three new fuelling alternatives: LNG, methanol, and more recently; electricity.

The company dismissed conversion to LNG because it was too expensive. Methanol, however, had clear advantages including being relatively easy to handle as it is liquid at ambient temperatures (unlike LNG), which made for an easier conversion. Conversion of the vessel to install the methanol tank and fuel system took six weeks at a yard. The dual-fuel engine accounted for about one third of the conversion cost, with the rest spent on other retrofits such as tanks and piping.

Commenting on the 5-year anniversary, Carl-Johan Hagman, Head of Shipping & Ferries at Stena AB, said the project took shape “thanks to excellent cooperation between Methanex and Wärtsilä, and many areas within Stena.”

Methanol is a low-flashpoint fuel which means it is covered by the IGF Code. While the ultimate goal is to add a new chapter on methyl/ethyl alcohol to the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), the IMO agreed that interim guidelines should be finalised urgently, with a commitment to add new part to IGF Code as soon as possible.

IBIA took part in work at the IMO to develop draft interim guidelines for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel. These draft interim guidelines are due for approval by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee at its 102nd session.

MSC 102 was scheduled for May, but has been postponed until further notice.

Unni Einemo

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