Japan to draw up safety standards for green, LNG-powered ships

The Japanese transport ministry will draw up safety standards for ships powered by liquefied natural gas to speed commercialization of the eco-friendly ships that are expected to largely replace oil-fueled vessels, ministry officials said Sunday.

The ministry says natural gas emits 25 percent less carbon dioxide and up to 70 percent less nitrogen oxide than petroleum and costs only one-third as much. Yet currently only a few more 20 LNG ships are operating — all as domestic vessels in Norway — due to a lack of safety standards worldwide.

In a bid to outpace similar moves to draw up safety standards in Europe and South Korea, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will focus on that work through fiscal 2016, and also take part in global rulemaking at the International Maritime Organization, according to the officials.

The objective is to allow Japanese shipbuilders and shipping companies to seize an advantage by being the first to introduced LNG-powered ships in a big way, ministry officials indicated.

Japan already has technology to manufacture LNG ships, so calls have been growing among shipbuilders and shipping companies for arrangements to promote its commercial use, the officials said.

Requesting a budget of 647 million yen in fiscal 2012 for the work, the ministry plans to make a model fuel tank and engine on shore to check for any structural problems and confirm the strength of piping and features, they said.

It will also conduct an experiment involving refueling at sea a ship with LNG, which easily gasifies, they said.

October 31, 2011. Kyodo News