LNG-powered bulk carriers make Northern Sea Route delivery voyages
Viikki and Haaga, the two 25,600-dwt LNG-powered bulk carriers built by the Jinling Shipyard at Nanjing in China for ESL Shipping, are making their maiden voyages to their home waters in the northern Baltic Sea by a westbound run along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in the Russian Arctic.
Haaga is the first of the dual-fuel pair to make the transit across northern Russia. Nanjing is 300 km up the Yangtze River from Shanghai and, following delivery from the shipyard, Haaga bunkered with LNG at a riverside barge-based fuelling station.
Following a stop in Japan for cargo, the handysize bulk carrier arrived at the eastern end of the NSR on 14 September. The vessel required a Russian icebreaker escort for the seven-day voyage through the East Siberian Sea to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.
However, on reaching Novaya Zemlya on 21 September, the ice-class 1A Haaga entered ice-free waters and was able to proceed through the western part of the NSR to Europe unescorted. Viikki is set to emulate Haaga’s voyage in two weeks’ time.
The summer season window of opportunity for NSR transits by ships like Viikki and Haaga, built to an ice class suitable for Baltic Sea operations, is closing rapidly. By mid-October the Arctic ice cover is beginning to accumulate its winter thickness.
Construction of the ESL pair is part of Bothnia Bulk, a joint industry project co-funded partly by the EU. In this particular case the grant was provided with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of bulk carrier operations, and reducing atmospheric emissions, on their sailings linking Luleå and Oxelösund in Sweden and Raahe in Finland.
Viikki and Haaga will be primarily utilised to transport iron ore mined in northern Sweden to Oxelösund and Raahe steel plants operated by SSAB, the Swedish-Finnish steelmaker. Iron ore transported from the mines to Luleå port by freight train will be transferred to the bulk carriers for onward shipment.
Helsinki-based ESL Shipping has contracted Skangas, part of the Gasum group, to bunker Viikki and Haaga. Fuel will be sourced from the Manga LNG facility in nearby Tornio, the northernmost port in the Gulf of Bothnia. Operated by Skangas, Manga LNG is the largest LNG receiving and distribution terminal in the Nordic countries.
The intention is to carry out the actual bunkering of Viikki and Haaga in Raahe. Other aspects of the Bothnia Bulk scheme include developing port infrastructure and LNG bunkering in Raahe, providing an onshore power supply in Luleå and implementing customised LNG safety, handling and bunkering procedures in the region’s ports.
Each of the two bulk carriers is provided with a 400-m3 IMO Type C bunker tank, transversely mounted on the main deck aft of the accommodation superstructure. The arrangement will enable 14 days of sailing between fuelling operations.
Viikki and Haaga are each powered by an MAN M-type, electronically controlled gas-injection engine. The two-stroke dual-fuel unit on each ship, which has a power rating of 6,000 kW, is backed by three dual-fuel MAN four-stroke genset auxiliary engines.
Each ship is also equipped with a permanent-magnet shaft generator, a device which can be made to operate as a power take-in motor by using auxiliaries. In this mode the shaft generator can boost the power delivered by the main engine to the propeller shaft by 20%, a useful increment when operating in difficult ice conditions.
When operating in its usual power take-out mode, the shaft generator provides an efficient way of meeting the vessel’s electrical energy requirements while at sea.
ESL Shipping points out that, by means of the combination of gas fuel and the bulk carriers’ energy-saving technologies and arrangements, Viikki and Haaga can achieve a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions per tonne of cargo carried compared to conventional bulk carriers.