Shipowener Crowley Maritime Corp. said Wednesday it is partnering with Royal Dutch Shell plc to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker barge to serve vessels powered by the super-chilled fuel on the East Coast starting in 2024.

LNG

The 416-foot-long barge is designed to offer capacity for 12,000 cubic meters of LNG and product supply equipment to “fully serve ocean carriers,” Crowley said. Subsidiary Shell NA LNG LLC has signed a long-term charter for the barge, which is expected to be the largest Jones Act-compliant vessel of its kind once built. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“Shell is dedicated to growing our LNG bunkering network across key trade routes, and this barge supports our commitment to helping provide our customers with the energy solution they are looking for,” said Shell’s Tahir Faruqui, general manager of global downstream LNG. “The shipping sector is making progress toward decarbonization, and LNG offers immediate emissions reduction with the potential to become a net-zero emission marine fuel given the possible roles of bio-LNG and synthetic LNG.”

The bunkering vessel would be constructed at Fincantieri Marine Group’s shipyard at Sturgeon Bay, WI. The design includes a “state-of-the-art solution” developed by Shell and Crowley “to flexibly deliver LNG to various types of LNG containment systems,” Crowley said.

The announcement comes as LNG bunkering is expected to grow in the United States. Small-scale player Stabilis Energy Solutions Inc. said in August it expects its first LNG marine fueling event to take place later this year on the Gulf Coast. More recently, the Port of New Orleans inked a memorandum of understanding with Cleancor Energy Solutions LLC to explore developing LNG fueling services for ships.

For its part, Fincatieri Bay is set to deliver an LNG barge later this year to Polaris New Energy, a subsidiary of private equity-backed Northstar Midstream Holdco LLC. The 5,400-cubic meter vessel is set to operate initially on the East Coast and provide bunkering services to NorthStar customers.

“This additional LNG barge will serve as another demonstration of our commitment to building and servicing sustainable maritime endeavors, both in the United States and globally,” said Fincanieri Marine CEO Dario Deste.

Meanwhile, Crowley Shipping Vice President Tucker Gilliam said orders for ships fueled by LNG continue to rise. “The new bunker barge will extend Crowley’s commitment to deliver cleaner, innovative solutions to help the shipping industry continue on the path to decarbonization,” he said.

The Crowley vessel is also expected to be the second Jones Act-compliant bunker barge Shell has under long-term charter in the United States. The Q-LNG 4000 barge was delivered to Shell in January. Worldwide, the company has completed more than 400 ship-to-ship LNG bunkering operations.

Shell has also made efforts to decarbonize its shipping segment. Earlier this year it ordered 10 LNG-fueled very large crude carriers.