For once we have a good news story from South Korea where shipbuilders there have announced the building of a new bulk carrier that will be powered by LNG stored in tanks that permit larger amounts of fuel and therefore the ship itself can be built larger to carry seven times more cargo than current LNG powered bulkers.
The shipbuilders said that whilst they acknowledge the difficulties of the South Korean and wider Asian shipbuilding market, with particular relevance to bulk carriers, they are confident that their breakthrough ship, developed in tandem with Posco, one of the world's leading steel-makers, will spearhead a renewal in the bulk ship market by offering a vessel that offers greater efficiencies, more environmental benefits and therefore gives shipowners a reason to invest in new tonnage.
This audacious development comes at a time when shipowners have been warned not to fall for the lure of low cost newbuilds as the market is flooded with too many bulk carriers seeking work, but HMD will be hoping that their new vessel will be seen as an answer to problems and not a problem to add to.
The steel used in the fuel tanks has been developed by Posco and contains about 20% manganese, meaning it can store LNG at the extremely low temperature of -162℃.
"The high manganese steel that will be used for the LNG tank of the ship is superior to the existing tanks made of alloy materials such as nickel and aluminium in terms of yield strength, extremely low-temperature toughness and price." Posco said.
"The largest volume of any of the LNG-powered bulk carriers has been able to carry 7,000 tons so far, but the new ship will be able to carry 50,000 tons of freight, about seven times more than the existing ones. It will have an energy-efficient, eco-friendly dual-fuel-capable engine that can use both bunker C oil and LNG. The ship will be completed at the end of next year and be used to carry limestone from Gangwon-do to Gwangyang works for POSCO from 2018.
"Since the ship will be designed for sailing across the ocean according to IFG Code (International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or Other Low-flashpoint Fuels), the high manganese steel is expected to have a better chance at being selected as a material for extremely low temperatures by the International Maritime Organization once the ship enters service."
Posco has worked with Daewoo on the development and hopes that international interest will lead to orders for such vessels.
HMD will be looking forward to the future with this new class of vessel and despite the problems with shipping and shipbuilding currently, this could herald the beginnings of a new era for bulk ship design and therefore new orders for South Korean shipbuilders.
Should this design prove itself then there is little doubt that shipowners in a static and downward market may be tempted by the increased efficiencies and capacity the design offers.