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Japan’s MOL Joins Move to LNG-Fueled Car Carriers 

LNG fueled car carrers
Dugong Ace is one of MOL's current next generation car carriers (MOL)

Published Aug 3, 2021 3:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is becoming the latest car carrier operator to announce plans to build new vessels using liquified natural gas as their fuel. The car carrier segment and specifically the Japanese shipping companies are leading in the adoption of LNG to improve the environmental performance of their vessels.

In its announcement, MOL said it has reached an agreement with Shin Kurushima Dockyard Co., to build four 7,000-unit capacity car carriers using LNG as their main fuel. The vessels are slated for delivery in succession starting in 2024. Shin Kurushima is one of the leading builders of pure car carriers including vessels for Japan’s other large carriers including K Lines and NYK.

MOL has a long history in the car carrier segment as one of the pioneers with its first car carrier introduced in 1965 to meet the needs of Japan’s emerging car exports. The first vessel was equipped with cargo handling equipment specially designed for automobiles and followed six years later by its first pure car carrier with a capacity of approximately 1,200 automobiles. A decade ago, MOL launched the world's first hybrid car carrier, equipped with a solar power generation system and rechargeable batteries, and more recently its next-generation FLEXIE series.

MOL said the construction of the new LNG-fueled car carriers was part of a broader plan to achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. The company, which currently has a fleet of 735 vessels, said that it plans to launch about 90 LNG-fueled vessels by 2030. 

MOL is accelerating its preparations for the launch of environment-friendly vessels using not only LNG fuel but also biofuels while continuing to research the use of ammonia and other next-generation fuels. This summer, its wholly-owned subsidiary Euro Marine Logistics has also started sea trials of its operated car carrier, the City of Oslo, using biofuel. The company has also developed an LNG-fueled tugboat and will take delivery of two LNG-fueled ferries in 2023 and 2023. The line has also signed a contract for the world’s first large LNG-fueled coal carrier due to enter service in 2023 and a bulk carrier in 2025.

Siem Car Carriers also introduced the first deep-sea ocean-going LNG fueled car carrier in 2020 and is operating two vessels under charter to Volkswagen. Shin Kurushima Dockyard is also part of the contract from NYK to build a dozen new LNG car carriers, which was the largest order of LNG vessels placed in Japan. NYK introduced its first LNG car carrier in October 2020. NYK currently has commitments for a total of 18 LNG-fueled car carriers and has said that it plans to replace current vessels with around 40 newly built LNG-fueled PCTCs over the next decade.