A SIGNIFICANT era in Australian shipping is coming to an end as the final four steam turbine LNG carriers of the North West Shelf Shipping Services Co deliver last cargoes from Dampier to Japanese buyers.

NWSSSCo was established in 1985 as shipping adviser to International Gas Transportation Company Limited (IGTC), a Bermuda registered shipping company responsible for providing shipping LNG capacity to the North West Shelf Project participants. Both IGTC and NWSSSC are equally owned by BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd, Chevron Australia Pty Ltd, Japan Australia LNG (MIMI) Pty Ltd, Shell Australia Pty Ltd and Woodside Energy Ltd.

LNG began to flow from the Karratha terminal on Burrup Peninsula on 28 July 1989 when the 125,000m3, Mitsubishi-built Northwest Sanderling departed with the facility’s inaugural cargo, bound for the Sodegaura terminal in Tokyo Bay, some 7,000km distant. The newly delivered Northwest Sanderling was the first LNG ship to be constructed with only four spherical cargo tanks and its beam, at 47.2m, exceeded that of any other LNG carrier then afloat.

With the North West Shelf Project gas resource almost exhausted in June last year the final four steam turbine LNG carriers, Northwest Sanderling, Northwest Sandpiper, Northwest Snipe and Northwest Stormpetrel were put up for sale and soon afterwards reported sold to KarMOL, a 2019-founded joint venture between Turkey’s Karadeniz Energy Group and Mitsui OSK Lines that specialises in the conversion of redundant LPG carriers into gas-powered floating powerships. KarMOL already operates Karmol LNGT Powership Asia, the former Northwest Shearwater, sold in 2021 and converted the following year for service in Brazil.

Northwest Sanderling arrived in Singapore this week from Kawasaki, Japan for handover to KarMOL, and Northwest Sandpiper is en route to Singapore from Anegasaki, Japan. Northwest Stormpetrel sailed from Dampier on 6 March for Japan and Northwest Snipe departed Dampier 16 March for Sakai.

Celebrating Northwest Stormpetrel’s final Dampier departure the BHP Shipping Facebook page recorded the ship had sailed 397 commercial voyages over its 29 years, 1 month and 5 days (as of 66 March) and delivered 47,500,000 cubic metres of LNG, enough to power every home in Australia for 4.2 years.

With the Australian manning of the vessels ending, Woodside Energy and maritime unions late last year reached agreement for 70 Australian seafarers to crew the chartered LNG carrier Woodside Goode from April this year until March 2029, managed by ASP.