A GAS-POWERED bulk carrier launched last month in Korea has left Newcastle on its maiden voyage laden with coal from Port Waratah Coal Services bound for Korean customers.
The HL Eco and its sister ship HL Green were built by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, with the gas power aimed at reducing the fine particulate dust and other pollutants that typify the exhausts of conventional ships running on heavy fuel oil.
With a carrying capacity of 180,000 tonnes and a length of 292 metres, the Korean ships are among the giants of the sea and are classified as "very large bulk carriers".
Korean media reported last month that the gas components of the vessels were supported by a government subsidy worth about $12 million.
Sulphur dioxides (SOx) and nitrous oxides (NOx) are two of the major pollutants from fossil fuel combustion, including coal-fired power stations and diesel engines.
Hyundai says the ships are designed to cut SOx and fine particulate matter by up to 99 per cent, and NOx by up to 85 per cent.
Hyundai says the gas fuel should produce 30 per cent less greenhouse gases than the same ship running on oil.
It says HL (Hyundai Line) Shipping has ordered four of the bulk carriers which will run about 10 times a year between Newcastle and Korea.
PWCS chief executive Hennie du Plooy welcomed the HL Eco and its crew to Newcastle and congratulated them on "the success of their maiden voyage", saying the vessel was a milestone in cutting maritime greenhouse gas emissions.
Hyundai Samho is one of the world's biggest shipbuilders, and Korean media said it and Korean steelmaker POSCO had collaborated on the design and construction of the gas tanks: each ship is said to carry enough gas "heat 3300 homes for a year".
The tanks are made of a special steel with 9 per cent nickel, an additive that allows steel to retain its strength at the low temperatures - up to minus 195 degrees Celsius - created when gas is compressed under high pressure to liquid form.
Other companies, including BHP, have also ordered gas-powered ships.
The company announced in September 2020 that it had awarded a five-year charter contract to Eastern Pacific Shipping to supply five liquid natural gas (LNG) fuelled "Newcastlemax" class bulk carriers to carry iron ore between Western Australia and China from 2022.
The Newcastlemax designation is applied to bulk carriers, usually "Capesize" vessels with a maximum beam or width of about 47 metres and capable of carrying up to 185,000 tonnes of cargo. The "max" designation implies they are the biggest ships the Port of Newcastle and its coal loaders can handle.
Before the advent of the "very large" bulk carriers, "Capesize" vessels were regarded as the world's largest: too large for either the Suez Canal ("Suezmax") or Panama Canal (Panamax), they must sail south of Cape Horn, at the bottom of South America, or the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to cross between the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
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