The A-Tug project was announced in May 2022, with NYK announcing the vessel is on track to hit the water in June 2024. Based at the Keihin Dock in Yokohama, the retrofit of the LNG-fueled tugboat Sakigake has begun. The engine will be completely removed and replaced with an ammonia-fueled engine developed by IHI Power Systems, NYK, Japan Engine Corporation and Nihon Shipyard. In May this year, the engine consortium announced successful tests had taken place, and emissions of dinitrogen monoxide (N2O) and ammonia slip were “virtually zero”.
The Sakigake is currently operated in Tokyo Bay by NYK subsidiary Shin-Nihon Kaiyosha, which will continue to operate the vessel and verify safety aspects.
At our recent annual conference in Atlanta, NYK representative Tsuyoshi Ohkawa explained that the next challenges for the A-Tug project center on safety & regulatory aspects. As operator, NYK will develop a robust safety methodology for seafarers on board the Sakigake. Ongoing safety work includes operating procedures for truck-to-ship bunkering, determining appropriate protective equipment required for tugboat crew, and entry/working criteria for enclosed spaces with high risks of ammonia fuel leaks.
When it comes to fuel regulations, demonstration projects are essential for leading the IMO’s development of regulations for new fuels. While ultimately both the IGC and IGF Codes will need to be updated to include the use of ammonia fuel, to get there, flag states must begin by developing safety assessments based on classification guidelines. Demonstration projects like the A-Tug will provide the evidence required to verify those safety assessments, and inform the new regulations.
Also in development: Handymax bulk carriers
In more NYK news, Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (CODELCO), a Chilean state-owned company and one of the world’s biggest copper producers, will partner with NYK Bulk & Project Carriers Ltd. (NBP) to develop a dual-fueled Handymax bulk carrier. Oshima Shipbuilding and Sumitomo will join the design & construction effort, with the new ammonia-powered vessel to be the first of a fleet of 10 to 15 vessels transporting copper products across the Pacific from Chile to Asia.
After about a year of deliberations, NBP and CODELCO have concluded a memorandum of understanding with Oshima Shipbuilding for the research, design, and construction of a Handymax bulk carrier equipped with a dual-fuel engine that can use ammonia as fuel in addition to heavy oil. This is a concrete first step towards a decarbonized society for CODELCO and NBP.Masashi Suda, President NYK Bulk & Project Carriers in his organisation’s official press release, 9 Nov 2023