An international symposium on the LNG (liquefied natural gas) strategy for inland navigation and ports finds this environmentally friendly alternative fuel does indeed appear to be capable of playing a vital role in supporting innovation, sustainable development and the competitiveness of inland waterway transport.
Organised by the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) and its partners (National LNG platform, LNG Masterplan, Pro Danube, Port of Antwerp, Port of Rotterdam, Energy Valley, LNG Initiative Nordwest, Mariko), the event took place 8 October in Strasbourg, France. More than 100 participants from numerous European countries concerned by the issue of the use, carriage and supply of LNG for inland navigation and ports were in attendance.
The symposium noted investment in LNG technology is currently being held back both in terms of the fleet and infrastructure. As such there seem to be grounds for organising a debate to promote the putting in place of enhanced collaborative mechanisms aiming to boost the momentum of this new technology.
Participants urged greater coherence in the support provided by the European Union for the development of LNG, and in particular a strengthening of legal certainty in the context of the new regulations on emissions by non-road mobile machinery, currently being discussed within the European Union. Indeed, the development of LNG must be accompanied by ambitious emissions limits, as well all test cycles that are more representative of real operating conditions, without however requiring additional investment in the form of post-treatment systems. Excessively onerous emissions limits pose a serious risk of halting investment and innovation in the inland navigation arena.
Shipowners reported at first hand on their experience with LNG-propelled vessels. Even if the current market situation was assessed as being difficult on account of the steep fall in the price of oil, the global oversupply of LNG could be a good medium to longterm leading indicator of the future competitiveness of LNG. Taking advantage of potential cost reductions as regards LNG equipment, especially tanks, and progress in setting up the supply chain could further accelerate the introduction of LNG in inland navigation.
Important impetus might also come from China, which represents the biggest sector for inland navigation in the world and which reckons as well on the introduction of LNG as fuel.
It was pointed out that the CCNR has played an active role in developing a regulatory framework governing the use of LNG as a fuel by inland vessels, thus supporting the profession’s efforts to reduce both pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by the inland navigation sector and its operating costs.
Following an initial regulatory package adopted in June, the entire body of regulation applicable to vessels using LNG as a fuel will be adopted by the end of the year, ensuring high safety standards and, at the same time, the necessary legal certainty for investors. In particular, those taking part in the symposium emphasised their interest in stable technical requirements for vessels and a harmonised bunker checklist.
(Source: Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine)