France Will Pursue LNG as a Marine Fuel

Edouard Philippe addresses a convention on the maritime economy in Le Havre, Nov. 21 (video frame)

By The Maritime Executive 2017-11-22 20:49:52

The French government has announced its endorsement of LNG as a marine fuel. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told an audience at a maritime conference in Le Havre that France will change regulations to facilitate LNG refueling at French ports, and may also change rules on amortization of investments in maritime technology in order to promote new alternatives.

“We have to use this [energy] transition to differentiate ourselves on the market – in transport and in port services,” Philippe said. “We want French ports to be equipped . . . with LNG installations and also the capacity to electrically charge ships."

At least one French maritime firm would benefit from these facilities. French ocean carrier CMA CGM, the world's third-largest container ship operator by TEU, has recently announced a major investment in LNG-fueled containerships. It will equip nine 22,000 TEU newbuilds – the largest boxships in the world – with all the equipment necessary to run on natural gas. The carrier has also worked with LNG supplier ENGIE on a feasibility study for LNG bunkering and LNG-powered container ships. 

“Liquefied natural gas has many environmental advantages,” said Farid Salem, an executive with the CMA CGM Group, in a statement last year. “It is undoubtedly the fuel of the future of the maritime shipping industry that will progressively substitute heavy fuel oil over the next few decades."

Calls for port competitiveness

Philippe also called for a national port strategy to improve the competitiveness of French seaports, which he said have "lagged" their counterparts to the north. In particular, he suggested a review to boost the fortunes of France's major state ports – Le Havre, Marseille and Dunkirk. "I do not get used to the idea that Antwerp is the first port of France," he joked. 

Philippe also pledged that he would defend the interests of French fishermen during the Brexit negotiations. France's fishing industry is concerned that it will lose access to British waters once the UK exits the EU, as French fishermen derive about 30 percent of their revenue from UK-administered seas.