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Japan’s First Dual-Fuel LNG Bunker Ship Launched to Expand Supply Network

LNG bunkering ship
Keys Azalea was launched today by the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Group (MHI)

Published Jul 12, 2023 4:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Japan marked the launch of its first dual-fuel LNG bunkering vessel which is being built as part of an effort to develop the country’s supply chain and bunkering capabilities. The vessel will be the first to operate specifically in western Japan both to bunker ocean-going vessels and for the coastal transport of LNG.

The launch and naming ceremony took place today, July 12, at the Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works' Enoura Plant which is part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Named Keys Azalea, the new bunker vessel will have a loadable capacity of 3,500 cbm of LNG. The vessel will be 270 feet in length and approximately 4,850 gross tons.

Due for delivery in March 2024, the Keys Azalea will build out the LNG capabilities in western Japan in the Kyushu-Setouchi area. It will service ports including Hirado, Hiroshima, and Okayama. This will be Japan's first LNG bunkering project to supply LNG to vessels in this area.

The vessel is being built for Keys Bunkering West Japan. The company is a joint venture established in February 2022 to supply LNG fuel for ships and operate a coastal transportation business. It was set up with investments from Kyushu Electric Power Company, NYK Line, Itochu Enex Co., and Saibu Gas Co. The company is part of the broader effort supported by the Japanese government to promote decarbonization in the marine industry in part through the expanded use of LNG as well as the development of new alternative fuels.

Worldwide the efforts continue to build out the LNG supply chain to support the shipping industry. DNV reports there are now 44 bunker vessels in operation with only a quarter of them currently operating in Asia. A further 27 bunker vessels are on order for delivery by 2025 in the alternative fuel sector, most so far devoted to LNG, although methanol bunkering is also beginning to be developed. DNV says a further 23 bunkering vessels for alternative fuels are currently under discussion.