Liquefied Gas transportation and terminals



James MacHardy, General Manager, Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators Ltd (SIGTTO), London, UK The LNG


Loss of confidence in the industry in one part of the world will undermine confidence elsewhere and threaten the reputation of the industry as a whole.

These words open the SIGTTO Profile and are as pertinent today as they were 10 or even 26 years ago when the Society was formed. SIGTTO was established in 1979 as a non profit making company, registered in Bermuda and granted observer status at IMO in 1982. SIGTTO membership operates nearly 95% of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) tonnage and terminals and almost 60% of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tonnage and terminals. The Society is engaged in its original purpose: To specify and promote high standards among all industry members throughout the world, and hence, to maintain confidence in safety of the liquefied gas industries and maintain acceptance, by society at large, as responsible industrial partners.

Members hold regular meetings, and the principal technical body is the General Purposes Committee. Information papers, text books and guidelines are published and are available either by download or through the publishers.

Among the main publications are ‘Liquefied Gas Handling Principles on Ships and in Terminals,’ Liquefied Gas Fire Hazard Management,’ ‘LNG Operations in Port Areas’ and ‘Crew Safety and Training for Large LNG Carriers.’

Port information for all LNG export and import terminals is available for members on a dedicated web portal, and SIGTTO is now working on LNG ship information on the same portal. The web portal, when completed, will allow ship and terminal operators to quickly assess compatibility of a given vessel against a given terminal. This, of course, will not preclude the vetting process and the possibility of inspections, but it will make the ‘first pass’ quicker and more accurate.

Working with the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), SIGTTO is drafting guidelines for jetty maintenance; this will improve the standards in equipment and facilities available on oil and gas berths around the world.

LNG expansion

The shipping industry as a whole, and the liquefied gas business in particular, is witnessing an unprecedented expansion at present. The number of LNG carriers is set to shortly double from the 1998 figures and by the end of the decade will be close to 400 vessels. The LPG new-building programme is also indicating considerable fleet renewal.

Similarly, we have seen considerable expansion in the number of terminals constructed or expanded. Over the last two years there have been over 40 applications for new import terminals filed with the USCG and federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In Europe we will shortly see the first LNG export terminal when the Hammerfest facility opens for export from the SnØvit complex, offshore Norway. Egypt has commissioned two export terminals, and China will open its first import terminal in 2006. In 2005 the UK resumed LNG imports after a fifteen year gap when Grain LNG received its first cargo from Arzew, Algeria, on the aptly named ‘Berge Arzew.’

This expansion in the number of ships capable of transporting cryogenic liquids, and the number of terminals designed to handle the product, gives rise to a unique set of problems.

The existing fleet of gas carriers have been manned and operated by a few dedicated owners and operators, the expansion will require considerably more mariners and this demand is happening at a time of a world wide seafarer shortage.

Seafarers traditionally came from NW Europe, US and Japan but the recruitment is moving to Eastern Europe, India and the Philippines, areas where ratings have always been sourced but now developing excellent officer provision.

Training standards

As they did for oil and chemical tankers the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has laid down a series of training standards for gas carrier crews which comes in addition to normal certification.

This IMO requirement is to attend a short safety course and a period of sea time ranging from 28 days to 6 months depending on Flag State requirements. While this situation provides for a well trained and highly knowledgeable environment, the continued growth in the fleet currently strains manpower resources and training schedules and it is possible short cuts can be taken.

Operators are putting into place “fast track” training programmes, and there is even “poaching” taking place with personnel being offered a more lucrative deal by alternative employers. LNG officers are currently amongst the best paid seafarers today.

In LNG, at present, there are differing standards from charterers, flag states, operators etc. SIGTTO are therefore establishing industry accepted minimum operational standards for training of all ten officer ranks onboard an LNG tanker.

The standards are written in the ‘competence based training standards’ methodology which was used for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), by the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) in the UK and in education and training generally both inside and outside the maritime industry.

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