First Ship-to-Ship Transfer of Ammonia Demonstrates Potential

ammonia transfer
Transfer of ammonia was completed in the international waters near Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar (Trafigura)

Published Jul 1, 2024 4:35 PM by The Maritime Executive


The first ship-to-ship transfer of ammonia was completed last week demonstrating the potential for the shipping of ammonia as well as hydrogen as future fuel sources. Trafigura Group, the global commodities trader that contracted for the shipment, highlights that current regulations for ship-to-ship transfers were only recently widely adopted by the ammonia industry.

Because of the toxic and corrosive properties of ammonia, it requires specialized handling. Only a small number of specialized terminals currently handle ammonia despite the perceived strong opportunities for it to emerge both as an alternative fuel and carrier for hydrogen.

Trafigura reports that approximately 6,000 metric tonnes of ammonia supplied by CF Industries from its Donaldsonville, Louisiana-based manufacturing complex, was transferred in international waters close to the port of Ceuta in the Strait of Gibraltar. The ammonia was loaded on Purus’ vessel Green Power (30,000 dwt). The vessel which is a medium gas carrier was built last year at Hyundai Mipo in South Korea and has a capacity for up to 40,000 cbm. The ship operates on a time charter to Trafigura.

Green Power is one of three medium gas carriers that Purus currently has in service. The company is building four more vessels each with a 45,000 cbm capacity due for delivery in 2025 and 2026.

The transfer was conducted to the Gas Aegean (10,000 dwt) a small gas carrier built 12 years ago for the LPG market. Operating by Benelux Overseas of Greece, the vessel was used to deliver the ammonia to Fertiberia to produce fertilizer.

“Our first safe and efficient ship-to-ship transfer of ammonia supports our growing ammonia trading activity. Importantly, it demonstrates the feasibility of ammonia bunkering in the future as demand grows for the hydrogen-based low-carbon fuels that will enable the shipping industry to decarbonize,” said Andrea Olivi, Head of Wet Freight for Trafigura.

Trafigura looks to be at the forefront of the emerging sector. In May 2024, the company signed a contract for four medium gas carriers that will be capable of using low-carbon ammonia as a propulsion fuel when delivered. The vessels will be built at HD Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in Ulsan, South Korea, with the first ship to be delivered in 2027.

This STS transfer comes just about three months after the first bunkering of ammonia to a vessel. About three tonnes of liquid ammonia were loaded from Vopak’s Banyan Terminal in Singapore to Fortescue’s converted offshore vessel as a demonstration of ammonia bunkering. According to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, extensive planning took place as part of the risk management. A further four tonnes of ammonia were bunkered on the vessel in April and May as part of the second round of fuel and propulsion tests. 

Development is also underway on terminals to support ammonia bunkering. This comes as the major engine manufacturers and shipyards are reporting strong progress in the development of engines and fuel systems capable of operating on ammonia.