UAE, Qatar vie to build region’s first LNG-powered harbour tug

The UAE and Qatar are vying to build the Middle East region’s first LNG-fuelled harbour tug as both announced plans to build such a vessel on the same day, as recognition of the region’s centrality to the fuel type, largely due to Qatar’s place as the world’s leading LNG exporter gains momentum.

Drydocks World Dubai announced on 22 May a strategic agreement with Finland’s Wartsila to build the vessel, expected to become operational in 2015, and also signed an agreement with Tasneef, the Middle East’s first-ever classification society, founded in 2012, to oversee construction of the vessel.

“Use of LNG will reduce emissions of NOx and CO2 by approximately 85% and 25% respectively. Our combined initiative with leaders in their respective fields aims to implement LNG technology at our yard and develop appropriate facilities thereby encouraging the commercial use of the technology.

“We are building the world’s first LNG-fuelled harbour tug and are wholeheartedly supporting the Government of Dubai’s initiatives. The environmental and economic advantages of using LNG as a marine propulsion fuel are immeasurable,” said Khamis Buamim, chairman of Drydocks World and Maritime World.

The eco-tug, to be named ‘Al-Emiratiya’, will run dual-fuel engines capable of operating on both traditional MDO and LNG.

“It is an honour for us to be on this joint mission, together with Dubai Drydocks, in providing environmentally friendly solutions to the maritime community. We all know the emission legislations are fast-changing.

“We are familiar with the changes in NOx regulations, sulphur regulations, but we would also like to further reductions of particulate matter and of course also CO2. In Wartsila, we have decades of experience with natural gas. This a new era in harbour tugs that are powered by natural gas,” said Lars Anderson, vice president, 4-stroke, Wartsila Ship Power.

When asked whether this was the world’s first LNG-powered harbour tug, Anderson said he was “not quite sure. I believe there could be something going on in China in this respect. Definitely this is the first one in the Middle East without a doubt.”

Wartsila’s Middle East Sales Director, Ibrahim Behairy said: “These are 9-cylinder Wartsila dual-fuel engines. They will be manufactured up in Finland. The technology is devised from the gas-diesel fuel engines we developed in the late eighties. In the late nineties, we came out with the dual-fuel engines. They are able to run on natural gas and marine diesel oil, and heavy fuel if you like, but obviously not in a tugboat.

“The design is almost ready. By signing this MoU we are initiating the start of the project. The vessel will be delivered in the fourth quarter 2015.”

Last week, Abu Dhabi Ports Company announced transfer of oversight of its tugboat fleet to Tasneef for a period of five years. This reflects the increasing confidence of the UAE and GCC in maritime endeavour, as the poaching of a leading Dubai-based DNV GL official, Omar Abu Omar, in January, to Tasneef makes clear.

On the same day as Dubai’s announcement, DNV GL’s Qatar office announced that it was issuing a recommended practice on LNG bunkering.

In the statement, a Qatar Petroleum (QP) official was quoted as saying that the company would build an LNG-fuelled harbour tug for Ras Laffan port and two LNG-fuelled OSVs for QP’s offshore fields.

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