Singapore prepares for its first methanol bunker operation

Singapore’s shipping industry is buzzing with anticipation as it prepares to conduct its first methanol bunkering operation this week.

The operation will be between the AP Moller – Maersk’s methanol-powered container ship on her maiden voyage – and Hong Lam Marine Pte Ltd’s Singapore-registered tanker MT Agility.

The shuttle received its first fuel in the South Korean port of Ulsan last week before sailing to Copenhagen, where it will be christened in September.

The bunkering operation took place on Sunday, July 16, when OCI refueled Maersk’s first green 1,000 tonne methanol fueled container ship OCI HyFuels ISCC certified green methanol at Odfjell Terminal Korea (OTK). The ship’s name is expected to be Maersk Solstice.

The bunkering operation follows OCI’s announcement last month that it would work with Maersk to refuel the feeder to ensure the ship’s maiden voyage will be net zero.

The ship will now navigate some of the world’s busiest shipping routes, bunkering in Singapore, Egypt and Rotterdam along the way.

The 21,500 km voyage from Ulsan, South Korea to Copenhagen, Denmark will provide Maersk seafarers with real operational experience in handling the new engines and using methanol as a fuel as the company prepares to welcome a fleet of new, large, ocean-going methanol-equipped vessels from 2024 onwards.

Engh Dih Teo, chief executive officer of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, said preparations for the operation had taken nearly a year. The focus of this effort is to implement a systemic approach to ensure seamless collaboration and expand the research and development framework for methanol bunkering.

MPA Singapore hosted a tabletop exercise on methanol bunkering during Singapore Maritime Week (SMW) 2023 last April with more than 28 participating agencies, companies and IHLs/RIs.

The TTX was followed by a two-day HAZID (Hazard Identification) and HAZOP (Hazard and Operability) workshop, bringing together agencies and partners directly involved in the methanol bunkering process. Participants included the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Hong Lam Marine, Maersk Oil Trading, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Mitsui & Co. Energy Trading Singapore Pte. ltd (METS) and representatives from government agencies such as the National Environment Agency and the Singapore Civil Defense Force.

The main objectives of this workshop were to complement and contextualize risk scenarios, share lessons learned from past incidents, test stress test assumptions and recommend additional security measures.

Although methanol loading and unloading is not entirely new in Singapore, the use of methanol as a marine fuel is breaking new ground.

To ensure a smooth bunkering process, Teo explained, agencies and partners carefully reviewed operational parameters, focusing on six critical phases: (1) arrival of the bunkering vessel at the receiving vessel, (2) connection and piping, (3) bunkering operation, (4) disconnection and flushing, (5) vessels departure, and (6) crew and seafarer competence.

In addition, ship designs were carefully examined and 42 recommendations implemented, including innovative practices such as the use of drones, weather and tide forecasting, continuous plume modeling and monitoring to support operations.

“Our stakeholders and agency representatives convened further drills on July 20 ahead of a full sea-based ground deployment (GDX) exercise (GDX) with MT Agility, agency resources and RIs to validate the effectiveness of our coordination and emergency preparedness, readiness and response.” he said.

“Maritime shipping is likely to make further progress since the founding of the International Maritime Organization MEPC80, green/biomethanol as a new marine fuel is likely to grow rapidly as more methanol-powered ships are shipped in the coming years. MPA looks forward to a safe and successful methanol bunker operation!”

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