Newbuild ocean tug bolsters growing LNG bunker fleet

With the LNG-capable fleet projected to top more than 1,000 ships by 2027, growing LNG bunkering infrastructure at ports in Europe, Asia and North America will be vital. Investments by the largest US LNG bunker vessel owner, Houston-based Seaside LNG and its maritime transport arm New Polaris Energy, continue to enhance LNG refuelling infrastructure in the US.

In March, Seaside LNG/Polaris New Energy reported the delivery of the newbuild ocean tug Tortuga as part of a new LNG bunkering articulated tug barge (ATB) unit. 

Built by Alabama shipbuilder Master Boat Builders, the 2,983-kW ocean tug is the power unit for 5,500-m3 LNG bunker ocean barge Clean Everglades. Seaside LNG took delivery of Clean Everglades from Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in October 2023.

Tortuga has an overall length of 33 m, with propulsion power supplied by two EPA-compliant Tier 4 Caterpillar 3512E main engines that drive two Berg MTA 523 Z-drives. A JAK 400PHL-L coupling system supplied by Beacon Finland allows Tortuga to connect to Clean Everglades to form the ATB unit. The same coupling system is used for a sister LNG ATB unit, consisting of the ocean tug Polaris and Clean Canaveral.

Clean Everglades was designed by Vard and has an overall length of 104 m, beam of 20 m, and depth of 10 m. Built to ABS class, the ocean tank barge has four 1,350-m3 IMO Type C tanks, with a cargo-handling system designed and developed by Wärtsilä Gas Solutions.

In January, Clean Everglades completed its first ship-to-ship (STS) transfer of LNG to Isla Bella, one of TOTE’s two LNG-fuelled, 3,100-TEU container ships at TOTE Maritime’s terminal near Jacksonville, Florida. The operation was a regularly scheduled delivery under TOTE’s long-term service contract with Polaris New Energy. TOTE Services acts as Seaside’s operating partner for both Clean Jacksonville and Clean Everglades.

“Seaside LNG/Polaris New Energy is leading the way in LNG maritime distribution, with the largest LNG bunker fleet in the country,” says Master Boat Builders president Garrett Rice.

Largest LNG bunker fleet in US 

Of the four LNG bunker vessels operating in the US, Seaside LNG controls three of them, Clean CanaveralClean Everglades and Clean Jacksonville, which it acquired from TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, a subsidiary of TOTE Maritime Group, last year. Clean Jacksonville, a 2,200-m3 coastal LNG barge, has performed hundreds of LNG bunkering operations since it began operating six years ago. It has been regularly used to refuel TOTE’s Marlin-class LNG-powered container ships that operate between Jacksonville, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico in Jones Act service since August 2018.

In November, Seaside LNG announced it would reposition Clean Jacksonville to the Port of Galveston in Texas, to provide marine transport supporting a long-term LNG supply agreement with Carnival Corp. Houston-based Stabilis Solutions will supply firm LNG deliveries from its liquefaction facility in Texas under the two-year contract with Carnival. 

On 30 December, the first STS transfer under the agreement was conducted at the port between Clean Jacksonville and LNG-powered cruise ship Carnival Jubilee

While relatively small at 64 m, Clean Jacksonville is unique in that it is the first and only LNG barge built to date in the US fitted with a single membrane cargo tank based on GTT Mark III Flex cargo containment technology. GTT also developed a specially designed bunkering arm to refuel ships at a transfer rate of 500 m3/h. 

Besides a marine transport fleet, Seaside LNG owns a 50% stake through a joint venture with Pivotal LNG in JAX LNG, a small-scale LNG production facility in Jacksonville.

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