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Methanol-Ready Ro-Ro Will Expand New Zealand Inter-Island Shipping

methanol ready ro-ro
Ro-ro design will be ready for methanol operations and improve cargo movement in New Zealand (MOVE)

Published Sep 15, 2022 12:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

A New Zealand-based freight shipping company has announced plans to move ahead with what could become the first methanol-fueled coastal ro-ro cargo ship. The project is receiving the support of the New Zealand government as part of a broader effort aimed at improving transportation in the island nation and achieving its environmental goals. 

The government in total has committed more than US$18 million in funding for the enhancement of coastal shipping through the National Land Transport Program. The goal is to support a resilient, competitive, and sustainable coastal shipping sector. The private sector will be investing an additional $36 million for a total value of the initiative of more than $55 million.

MOVE Logistics Group’s project calls for the commissioning of a roll-on/roll-off cargo vessel. As part of the design, MOVE has committed to making the vessel methanol-capable with the intent of converting to the alternative fuel when the fuel and technology become available. The design will include a methanol tank and pipework installation during construction to ensure that the new vessel is ready for the swap-in of carbon-friendly methanol-powered engines as they become available. 

The newbuild vessel is expected to be available to enter service by November 2023. It will be designed to transport vehicles, bulk liquids, and containers.

Waka Kotahi, the New Zealand transportation agency, has endorsed the proposal by MOVE for its roll-on/roll-off vessel. The agency has committed to investing NZ$10 million (US$6 million) in the project as part of its overall mission to support coastal shipping initiatives that improve the competitiveness of domestic coastal shipping, reduce freight sector greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance resilience.

“This new vessel will not only provide a reliable mode of transport, but operational efficiencies will also amplify the carbon reduction efforts of MOVE and Waka Kotahi,” said Dale Slade, General Manager of MOVE Oceans.  “The expansion of coastal shipping will be transformative for the economies of regional New Zealand.”

Currently, the only options available for moving rolling stock between the North and South Islands in New Zealand are on the Cook Strait ferries, which operate between Wellington and Picton. MOVE’s new vessel will be able to berth wheeled cargo into at least 13 New Zealand ports, without the need for any new port infrastructure to be built. The vessel will initially operate three sailings a week between Nelson on New Zealand’s North Island and New Plymouth on the South Island. According to the company, the vessel will provide an additional sea bridge between the North and South Islands operating 150 sailing per year.