Gas as a fuel overview

Updated 11 Oct 2019


After more than a century of using oil as fuel for ships, it is not surprising that most regulation covers oils either as fuels or as lubricants. The only other fuel commonly in use today is LNG and until recently it was not really covered by any international regulation.

Although still a relatively small fraction of the world fleet, the number of ships using LNG as fuel is increasing. The majority of such ships are still LNG carriers where the gas is not loaded as fuel but is provided by the boil-off from the cargo, but they will soon be outnumbered by other vessel types.

The catalyst for change was the adoption at MSC 95 in June 2015 of the International Code of Safety for ships using gases or other low flashpoint fuels (IGF Code) as this allowed for universal rules rather than the use of flag state dispensation as was previously the case. The IGF Code covers bunkering procedures as well as the storage and use of LNG as fuel onboard.

Adoption of the IGF Code involved amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 (Construction – Structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations) that included amendments to Part F Alternative design and arrangements, to provide a methodology for alternativedesign and arrangements for machinery, electrical installations and low-flashpoint

fuel storage and distribution systems; and a new Part G Ships using low flashpoint fuels, to add new regulations to require ships constructed after 1 January 2017 to comply with the requirements of the code. Thereare related amendments to chapter II-2 and Appendix (Certificates).

The IGF Code contains mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing initially on LNG. It addresses all areas that need special consideration for the use of low-flashpoint fuels, taking a goal-based approach, with goals and functional requirements specified for each section forming the basis for the design, construction and operation of ships using this type of fuel.

The IMO has also adopted related amendments to the STCW Code to include new mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualifications of personnel on ships subject to the Code. The amendments also came into force date on 1 January 2017, in line with the SOLAS amendments related to the IGF Code.

It is anticipated that as the use of alternative fuels grows, specific requirements cover fuels such as hydrogen, ethane and LPG will need to be added to the IGF Code in order to avoid flag states needing to make their own rules as used to be the case with LNG.

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