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Ships, with huge fuel consumption, considerable experience with LNG, and the pressure of Emission Control Area regulations taking effect in Europe and North America in 2015, are first and foremost for large scale use of natural gas as a propulsion fuel.

LNG carriers have used LNG boil-off for decades to help stoke their dual fuel engines, and ferries in Norway have operated on LNG since late in the last century. Norwegian operators have deployed and commissioned LNF-fueled cargo and Offshore Supply Vessels too, as well as at least one coast guard vessel, and Norway’s example is fast being followed by The Netherlands and on Germany’s inland waterways. LNG-fueled OSVs are being built for service in the Gulf of Mexico, and projects are getting underway for LNG on the Mississippi and other American rivers.

The City of New York is converting a Staten Island Ferry to LNG operation, and plans have been drawn for the world’s largest ferry operation, in Seattle, to begin retrofitting large ferries or deploying newbuild ones. America’s last coal-burning passenger vessel, Lake Michigan’s 400-foot S.S. Badger ferry, is being converted to LNG.

Short sea ships, which are smaller vessels plying regular routes close to home – and presumably to fueling – are the lead candidates for early LNG use. This mirrors the trend onshore, where fleet vehicles with a central fueling point have been the first to embrace alternative fuels. Likewise mirroring the on-road sector, there are proponents of both duel fuel (with diesel and natural gas burned in combination) and dedicated-natural gas approaches.

New Orleans-based Harvey Gulf has opted for dual fuel engines by Finland’s Wärtsilä for the four OSVs it ordered late last year. One of their many cargoes will be diesel fuel for the engines powering the offshore drill rigs the ships will support.

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