Horizon plans to convert steam powered container vessels to diesel-LNG dual fuel propulsion

The USA’s specialist domestic carrier Horizon Lines announced that it plans to convert the power plants on two of its steam turbine cargo vessels to modern diesel engines capable of burning conventional liquid fuels or liquefied natural gas. Horizon said the project was the first step in a repowering initiative its vessels serving in the Hawaii and Puerto Rico trade lanes.

Horizon said that it will initially convert two of its steam-powered vessels with the aim of reducing fuel consumption and lowering emissions. The conversion projects are being prepared in cooperation with the classification society American Bureau of Shipping and the U.S. Coast Guard. The carrier did not disclose which of its two ships would undergo the conversion, but stated that works are to be carried out in 2015.

A total of 12 request-for-pricings have been issued for the conversion works, thereof six to shipyards in the USA. Horizon commented that the proposed conversion works could be carried out at non-US shipyards without jeopardizing the Jones Act status of the vessels.

The Jones Act is a piece of legislation, which mandates that ships which carry cargoes between USA-ports must be built and registered in the USA and staffed with US crews. The protective Jones Act is also the reason why so many elderly and outdated steam-powered ships have survived in the US-domestic trade in the first place.

Late in 2012, another Jones Act specialist line, TOTE, had announced its move into natural gas propulsion. The company ordered two dual-fuel container vessels of 3,100 teu at the San Diego-based General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard and it will convert two of its ‘Orca’ class roro vessels from diesel to dual-fuel engines. The converted roros will trade on Tomem Roro’s Tacome to Anchorage shuttle, whereas the container newbuildings are earmarked for Sea Star Line US East Coast to Puerto Rico services. Both Totem Roro and Sea Star Line are subsidiaries of TOTE.

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