Leading Russian shipping company SCF Group (Sovcomflot) has announced its plans to localize LNG-fueled Aframax tanker production. SCF’s aim is to be the first in the industry to start the construction of Aframaxes running on liquefied natural gas and get the first of the pack the next year.
The SCF fleet of 160 vessels includes four existing Aframax class tankers, none of which were built in Russia. If the company’s plans are brought to life, the new generation tankers will replenish the group’s fleet by September 2018. The 114,000 dwt vessels will be built to ice class 1B, which allows them to safely export crude oil year-round from areas with complex ice conditions, including the subarctic seas.
"We are encouraged by the fact that Russian shipbuilders are engaged in this work, and we have optimism in terms of localizing the production of Aframax vessels on the basis of the capacities created," says SCF chairman Sergey Frank. "We would like to see this production of advanced technologies localized in Russia, which even outstrips the international market.”
SCF says that it is working on the organization of production and placement of orders for the construction of these types of vessels at existing facilities in the North-West and Far East regions of Russia. Russian media believe that the “shipbuilders engaged” are in St. Petersburg, where there are several shipyards already producing vessels for SCF, as well as the Far Eastern Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Center (FESRC) in the city of Vladivostok.
The construction of these vessels may take longer than SCF expects. Baltic Shipyard, the largest yard in North-Western Russia, takes up to three years to build an icebreaker. It is doubtful that any of these shipyards could build an LNG-fueled tanker of 114,000 dwt in just a year.
However, their construction comes at an opportune time: the LNG industry in the world is developing at an accelerated pace. Russia has a good chance to take its place in the market and to increase its share in world LNG production from the current 4 percent to 20 percent by 2025, experts say.
Alex Peters is a contributing author based in Russia.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.