TWO hundred seventy five ships with alternative fuels (excluding battery-operated vessels) were ordered in 2022, according to DNV’s recently published Alternative Fuels Insight report.

Of that total, 81%, or 222 ships, were LNG-fuelled. And 74% of these orders were for container vessels and pure car and truck carriers, while product tankers came in third, representing 9% of orders.

According to the report, last year came close to 2021’s record orders for LNG-powered ships – 240 vessels were ordered that year.

The total count of LNG-fuelled ships in operation and on order now stands at 876. A total of 104 new LNG-fuelled ships entered operation during 2022, representing a 41% growth within the sailing fleet.

Methanol was the second-most popular alternative fuel choice, with 35 ships ordered over 2022. This brought the total count to 82 ships.

Thirty of the methanol-fuelled ships ordered last year were large container vessels.

A total of 18 ships capable of running on hydrogen fuel were ordered, ranging from small crew-transfer vessels for the offshore wind industry which are built to operate fully on hydrogen, to large cruise vessels installing hydrogen powered fuel cells that cover a smaller portion of the energy demand onboard.

Diversity in LNG ships

Martin Wold, principal consultant for DNV’s maritime advisory business, said a diverse portfolio of LNG fuelled ships was delivered in 2022, with large crude oil tankers in the lead and container ships in second place.

“Far from all are currently operating fully on LNG fuel but there are geographical pockets where LNG is still competitively priced and being bunkered regularly. The underlying growth for LNG fuel is nevertheless very strong and the market will likely return with a boom at some point, with bunkered volumes expected to triple within a very short time span,” Mr Wold said.

 “Looking ahead we expect 2023 to turn out similarly to 2022 in terms of newbuild orders for alternative fuels. The orders will likely materialise across somewhat different ship types and sizes compared to last year, moving with the newbuild market in general.”

According to the report, the majority of ships ordered with alternative fuels in 2023 is expected to be LNG dual fuel – similar to last year.

The elevated price levels for natural gas will continue to delay the widespread adoption LNG as fuel in the marine industry, however from a big picture perspective delivery times for newbuilds aligns well with when global gas and LNG prices are expected to cool down.

Methanol in the future

According to Mr Wold’s analysis, orders for methanol dual fuel is also likely to continue, and possibly grow somewhat in terms of number of ships.

Compared to LNG, methanol fuel systems are less costly and easier both for the yard to fit – in particular on smaller vessels – and for the owners to operate.

Mr Wold said last year was the year in which methanol really established itself as an alternative to LNG and engine makers report about record high interest for methanol capable engines.

“Concerns around sourcing and the scalability of green methanol in the short to medium term will remain the main slowing factor here,” he said.

“Whereas the main competition will be between conventional fuels, LNG and methanol in 2023, we expect to see a further positive trend for the ordering of hydrogen fuelled ships. We also expect to add the first officially confirmed ammonia fuelled ship to our AFI database this year.”