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SembMarine to invest in LNG tugs, teams up to advance LNG value chain

YARD group Sembcorp Marine is investing in a fleet of liquefied natural gas (LNG)-hybrid powered tugs, which would allow its operations to comply with emission targets being rolled out by International Maritime Organization (IMO), the industry’s overarching regulatory body.

The yard group plans to design and build up to 12 such tugs to replace the existing diesel-powered ones in the years through to 2025.

This announced investment falls in line with the development of SembMarine's Tuas Boulevard Yard (TBY) as a future-proof, smart and sustainable facility. SembMarine's president and CEO Wong Weng Sun said: “We expect to start constructing the first pair of hybrid tugs in 2019 and have them ready for operation by 2021."

Mr Wong unveiled the fleet-building plan at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with classification society, ABS and A*Star’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) on Wednesday.

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The three partners are teaming up to develop new technologies, applications and capabilities in the offshore, marine and energy sectors that will advance the adoption of LNG as a globally preferred fuel. The MoU covers three areas of collaboration:

-     SembMarine and ABS will work on approval and certification of gas value chain solutions for small-scale LNG applications;

-     The three partners will develop technologies in offshore LNG processing, transfer and containment and new applications for LNG as a sustainable fuel;

-     The partners will also jointly develop and conduct LNG-related training and technical workshops through Sembcorp Marine Academy.

Mr Wong pointed out that the partners can tap TBY as a living lab to explore and test ideas in real-life ecosystems.  SembMarine's head of research and development Simon Kuik said the yard group will draw on its two partners' expertise to "enhance and optimise" the LNG hybrid tugs it intends to build. "LNG tugs are one LNG-fuelled vessel type that we hope to market to shipping port hubs internationally," he added.

SembMarine will also ink a master research collaboration agreement with IHPC after having concluded earlier a master service agreement with ABS.  These two agreements would reduce the time to market and facilitate the application of new gas technologies executed under the MoU signed on Wednesday.

ABS chief operating officer Tony Nassif said: “As a global leader in gas, ABS is collaborating with innovative companies and organisations such as Sembcorp Marine and IHPC, to support the delivery of technologies that minimise the environmental impact of shipping." 

Professor Tan Sze Wee, executive director of A*Star’s Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), said: “A*Star is committed to supporting large local enterprises like Sembcorp Marine to innovate and develop new technologies and capabilities.

"By driving R&D that encourages the adoption of LNG as a sustainable fuel, Sembcorp Marine will continue to have a competitive advantage in the global economy. With ABS, a renowned international body, on board, this collaboration is an exciting one with the potential to transform the offshore, marine and energy sectors, both locally and abroad.”