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SIBCON 2022 Interview: Eaglestar discusses challenges and possible solutions in embracing ammonia as a bunker fuel

11 Oct 2022

The following interview with Capt. Peter Liew, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Eaglestar, is part of coverage for the upcoming Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) 2022, where Manifold Times is an official media partner. Eaglestar is a world-class provider of global integrated marine services and a member company of the MISC Group.

Capt. Peter Liew gives his take on how shipowners can decide between the types of alternative fuel solutions for their new and existing assets and elaborates on MISC Group’s roadmap to adopting ammonia as a bunker fuel. He also shares challenges the shipping industry will face in embracing ammonia as a marine fuel with possible solutions to overcome them.

MT: What is MISC’s view and roadmap on the adoption of ammonia as a bunker fuel?


MISC is supportive of the various alternative fuels and technology that will help us to achieve our net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions commitments by 2050. We have revised our baseline year to 2008 to align with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2030 and IMO 2050 targets.

MISC believes that ammonia is one of the viable pathways to support decarbonisation in the maritime industry, in line with the IMO’s 2050 goals. We also believe that collaboration is vital to support the overall agenda of decarbonising the maritime industry. It is important for the leaders and industry players to continue engaging and exploring together the opportunities that are arising and how the risks related to new fuel adoption can be managed through collaborations.

MISC is a proud partner of The Castor Initiative, a multi-stakeholder global coalition that is committed to jointly developing commercially viable deep-sea zero-emission vessels (ZEV) fuelled by ammonia by 2030 in line with the IMO’s GHG aspirations.

Moving forward, MISC Group will progressively renew its fleet to high-efficiency dual-fuel engine vessels from now to 2030. The Group will also execute continuous operational efficiency improvements with the aim of reducing the energy consumed on voyages as well as implement strategies to optimise the technical and operational efficiencies of our vessels. MISC expects to progressively change its fleet to ZEV from 2031 as part of its net-zero GHG emissions commitment by 2050.

Road Map

MISC believes that our pathways towards decarbonisation by 2050 will be achieved by simultaneously executing our short and medium term goals together.

Our transition plan between 2021 to 2030, is to progressively renew our fleet with high- efficiency, dual-fuel vessels, in addition to promoting advanced technologies that minimises emissions from our vessels. To complement our efforts as a member of The Castor Initiative, the MISC Group is committed to developing zero-carbon emission vessels with our strategic partners.

In the long term, starting 2031 (if not sooner) until 2050, we will progressively undergo a fleet renewal to zero-carbon emission vessels. We will also focus on continuous operational efficiency improvements by adopting new technological innovations on existing and new builds to continuously improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

For carbon removal technology which depends on its viability, we aim to adopt carbon capture retrofits in our existing newer vessels to remove excess carbon emissions. Carbon offset is one of the key building blocks in MISC’s net-zero GHG emissions commitments by 2050 to compensate for residual emissions not possible to be abated.

MT: As ship/crew/technical manager, how does Eaglestar support in achieving MISC’s decarbonisation goal?

Eaglestar plays a pivotal role in supporting MISC Group’s decarbonisation journey in terms of developing our global maritime workforce, and our subject matter experts are capable of addressing the spectrum of technical and operational challenges that confront the introduction of alternative fuels. Our collective wealth of expertise coupled in ship management puts us at the forefront of executing MISC Group’s decarbonisation goals.

Eaglestar provides a comprehensive range of integrated marine services and delivers a suite of solutions ranging from fleet management and operations and maintenance (O&M) to crew management and manning services, dry-docking management as well as project management services for newbuild construction, conversion projects and vessel repair life extension for internal and external customers.

We operate and maintain a modern and diversified fleet of vessels including LNG carriers (conventional steam and DFDE), Ethane carriers, LNG Bunkering Vessel (LBV), Crude Oil carriers, Dynamic Positioning shuttle tankers (DP2 standard), Product/Chemical vessels (Type II), LNG Floating Storage Units (FSUs), Marine Containment Vessels and Petroleum tankers(Aframax) propelled by LNG dual fuel engines (LNG and Fuel Oil) supported by a team of highly skilled, competent and dedicated professionals. Our Centre of Excellence leverages upon the combined resources and experience of more than 60 years as proven by our excellent HSE performance in the shipping industry, enabling us to better serve key vessel segments in various markets and to achieve short-medium and long-term decarbonisation goals.

Eaglestar’s advantage as one of the earliest ship managers of LNG and dual-fuel vessels within the maritime industry, enables us to play a vital role to support this aspiration by contributing our extensive knowledge and capabilities in technological solutions and maritime talents. We have embarked on the initiatives to fortify our human capital and people capabilities to support MISC Group as well as The Castor Initiative’s aspirations which will ultimately contribute to the maritime industry’s decarbonisation goals.

MT: Which types of vessels will be ideal candidates to consume as ammonia as a bunker fuel and why?

In our opinion, any vessel can be the ideal candidate to consume Ammonia as fuel. In deciding the types or alternative fuel solutions for its new and existing assets, a ship owner should take the following matters, among others, into consideration.

  1. The readiness/maturity of the specific fuel technology.
  2. The containment system requirements for safe storage and bunkering arrangements.
  3. The fuel availability and bunkering infrastructure, and trading routes.
  4. The people’s capability for the safe operation and handling of toxic substances.
  5. The required rules and regulations to meet industrial strict safety and technical standards requirements.

It is undeniable that there may be potential risks that are associated with new fuel technologies. Hence collaboration and sharing of those risks among all industry players along the value chain are imperative. However, building a new vessel without an alternative fuel solution, in our opinion, is careless and irresponsible.

MT: What kinds of challenges will the shipping industry face when embracing ammonia as a bunker fuel? What are the solutions?

Ammonia, in its natural form, as we all know, is a toxic substance, and the challenge is in ensuring that the fuel can be transported, stored, and consumed safely. Our seafarers must be trained and equipped with the skills and knowledge required to handle ammonia in the safest manner. Existing international rules, regulations, and controls need to address these specific risks.

Ammonia as a fuel is a new technology, thus it has technical and operational challenges. Hence it is imperative, that time should be given to develop this technology without pressure, and it is equally important for all parties who are involved in the development of this technology to work together rather than against each other.

The availability of ammonia as fuel and its pricing in relation to conventional fuel are challenges that need to be addressed. It is crucial to have the commitment from fuel suppliers to make the fuel available at the right location and quantity. The price disparity between ammonia and conventional fuel, if not properly addressed, could potentially derail the commercialisation of ammonia as bunker fuel. Hence, it is imperative to level the playing field by instituting a global carbon tax or carbon levy to make ammonia a viable fuel.

In summary, it is true, like any other fuel technology; ammonia fuel technology confronts multiple challenges. Consequently, it is vital that all industry players and stakeholders along the value chain (regulators, policymakers, authorities, shipyards, classification society, engine manufacturers, ammonia producers, facility providers, charterers, and financiers/bankers) collaborate to overcome these challenges and equally share the risks associated with this fuel technology.

MT: What changes will the bunkering industry need to undergo in order to support shipping’s switch to ammonia bunkers?

Ammonia availability, bunkering facilities, storage, and transhipment are the key challenges in the bunkering supply chain. With the currently established global grid of ammonia terminals and storage, a similar bunkering grid could be established quickly and cost-efficiently by converting small gas tanker vessels to bunker barges. In the long-term, marine bunkering infrastructures should include bunkering from both bunker ships and onshore storage. Ramping up production is required to meet at least 30% of marine fuel demand in 2050, which is around 150 million tons/year.

Special considerations should be made to risk assessment measures to prevent accidents. This would take into consideration the probability of leakage, gas detection systems, and certification along the supply chain. Also, the development of new regulations and rules are needed and could very much be extended and fortified from existing rules. The bunkering operation itself would be very similar to when bunkering other gaseous fuels, except the main hazard would be the fuel toxicity rather than flammability, and the procedures for ammonia bunker barges need to be developed. It is crucial to develop the people’s capabilities to trans-ship and handle ammonia as bunker fuel, safely and effectively.

For certification and traceability, while traditional fuels have a wide and complex range of properties, ammonia is a clean fuel consisting of only one compound, which eliminates all variations between types and qualities, thereby greatly simplifying fuel sourcing, qualification and analysis.

MT: Is the ammonia bunker fuel future nearby, or still far away?

It depends on how one perceives what is near or far away. Currently, ammonia in many ways, in

our opinion, is relatively the most matured and viable zero-carbon fuel technology solution. There are many various active industry initiatives that are currently and seriously pursuing ammonia as bunker fuel.

Decisive and affirmative government actions and investment commitment are fervently needed to scale up the use of ammonia as bunker fuel. The Castor Initiative is one of the advance groups of like-minded industry stakeholder collaboration that is currently pursuing to deliver a dual fuel ammonia vessel in 2025/26.

A list of other interviews conducted by Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times on occasion of SIBCON 2022 are as follows:

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Related: SIBCON 2022 Interview: MFMs relevant for custody transfer of future liquid-based marine fuels, confirms Endress+Hauser
Related: SIBCON 2022 Interview: Clyde & Co discusses handling of bunker fuel quality disputes, alt fuels contracts
Related: SIBCON 2022 Interview: Singapore Bunkering TC Chairman shares republic’s direction on future marine fuels


Photo credit: Eaglestar
Published: 11 October, 2022

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