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Growth in gas transportation high

Growth in gas transportation high
Gas carriers give rise to consistently fewer cargo claims than other merchant ships. As gas transportation faces major technical and commercial changes, the challenge is to remain as safe as possible.

Growth in gas transportation highlights changes

Gas carriers give rise to consistently fewer cargo claims than other merchant ships. As gas transportation faces major technical and commercial changes, the challenge is to remain as safe as possible.

Today, over 900 ships lift 50 million tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) each year, as well as 20 million tonnes of ammonia and petrochemical gases while more than 200 ships carry 150 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG). That"s 50,000 voyages since the 1960s with no major incident.

Gas is the world"s favourite fuel and global economic growth is increasingly dependent on it. However, keeping up with demand requires more ships, more crews, more suppliers, new technologies and new ways of doing business. What will this mean for gas shipping?

The questions arising are addressed in "Gas Matters," a 40-minute DVD, produced by the UK P&I Club for use by crew and onshore staff. It was screened to delegates on April 21st at the Istanbul Tanker Event 2008, organised by Intertanko. The DVD
aims to increase awareness of the causes of P&I claims for cargo damage and loss in a rapidly changing technical and commercial environment. "Gas Matters" provides advice on legal, technical and managerial aspects of preparation for loading, loading itself, the voyage, discharging and changing cargo.

It contends that gas ships have generally been built to the highest standards and are technically advanced. Positive tank pressure prevents the creation of flammable gas/air mixtures while closed loading systems, double hulls and cargo containment designs minimise the chance of cargo escaping. Gas terminals employ complementary advanced technology.

Being expensive, such ships are well maintained with some exceeding 40 years in service. They have been operated by a small pool of experienced operators and skilled crew. Above average manning levels and high quality training have kept down incidents caused by human error. Further, most LNG carriers trade on project contracts, shuttling between familiar ports of call. However, ?ahead of gas shipping lies turbulent change and dramatic transition. It has been a world of few surprises but not any longer.?

Hitherto, the "LNG club" has had few members, enabling close co-ordination between shippers, carriers and receivers in a ?guaranteed? market.
Officers formerly on first name terms with terminal staff will find themselves in unfamiliar loading situations on the other side of the world. A master used to "project" work may find his ship trading in the spot market.

New ways of doing business will mean pressure on freight rates, disputes over quantity and quality, gassing-up and cooling-down time, and loss of hire. Owners new to LNG will need to understand how boil-off gas is used as fuel during voyages.

On the hardware front, crews used to maintaining ageing LNG ships must learn about reliquefaction and regasification plants. Engineers with a lifetime"s experience of steam may have to learn to love diesels.

However, the growing market will not be satisfied by those already in the industry embracing change. Perhaps the biggest concern is the availability of skilled and experienced manpower to do all the new jobs properly. It is estimated that the growth of the LNG fleet alone will call for at least 5,000 new officers by 2010. Tempting staff away from other companies increases the industry"s wage bill without adding to the pool of skilled people.

Only first-rate training programmes can produce the highly skilled mariners needed ----mariners who will eventually become experienced, shore-based managers. Developing people is a vast but vital investment.

Bill Wayne, General Manager of the Society of International Gas Tanker & Terminal Operators Ltd (SIGTTO), says: ?Gas will continue to play a major and growing role in meeting global energy demand. This will mean more newbuild gas carriers, more developments in terminal facilities and an expanding commercial base. All this activity is going to bring in many new people to the industry. If gas transportation is to maintain its excellent safety record, these new participants have to be aware of the sophisticated technology involved. The UK Club's DVD provides a first rate technical and commercial overview of key elements which underpin the ongoing success of the industry."

Karl Lumbers, the UK P&I Club"s Loss Prevention Director, concludes: ?Liquefied gas and its transportation amount to a dazzling success story. The challenge is to maintain today"s high standards through a period of rapid expansion and change. All involved in gas shipping will want to work together to maintain the safety record, the confidence of the public and the success. By focusing on current best practice, this video aims to help achieve that goal.?


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