Crowley Maritime Corp. has commissioned construction of two of the world’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled combination container and vehicle transport ships to provide shipping and logistics services between the United States mainland and Puerto Rico.

The company contracted with VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, MS, to build the container and roll-on/roll-off ships, which are designed to travel at speeds up to 22 knots and carry containers ranging in size from 20-foot standard to 53-foot-long, 102-inch-wide, high-capacity units, along with hundreds of vehicles in enclosed, weather-tight car decking.

The Jones Act ships are scheduled for delivery in the second and fourth quarter of 2017 and will replace Crowley’s towed triple-deck barge fleet, which has been in service since the early 1970s.

CEO Thomas B. Crowley Jr. said the new ships are the first of their kind in the world. “…[O]ur actions are clear evidence of our commitment to the U.S. maritime industry and the Jones Act,” he said. “American-built, crewed and owned ensures U.S. shipbuilding capabilities, skilled U.S. merchant seamen, and available domestic vessel tonnage, all of which are of vital importance to our national defense.”

“Jones Act” refers to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which among other things requires that goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged ships that were built in the United States and are owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens/U.S. permanent residents.

Crowley Maritime is a unit of Jacksonville, FL-based Crowley Holdings Inc. Crowley Maritime earlier this year acquired Carib LNG LLC (see Daily GPI, May 9), which is licensed to export containerized LNG from the United States to free trade agreement (FTA) countries and is seeking authorization to export to non-FTA countries (see Daily GPI, Oct. 25;Aug. 2, 2011).