Container shipping firm CMA CGM will use the French Mediterranean port of Marseille for refueling some of its planned gas-powered vessels, backed by a supply partnership with energy group Total.
Total will supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a refueling barge to enable CMA CGM to refuel LNG-powered vessels at the Marseille-Fos hub starting in 2021, the companies said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The initiative covers five vessels with a capacity of 15,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) each that will come into service from 2021 and operate between the Mediterranean and Asia.
Total will supply around 270,000 tonnes of LNG per year over 10 years at Marseille, while also providing a complementary refueling service in Singapore, according to the statement.
LNG has been promoted as an alternative to bunker fuel oil for shipping lines facing a January 2020 deadline to meet new international standards on emissions.
French-based CMA CGM, the world's fourth-largest container shipping line, turned to LNG two years ago when it ordered the first-ever giant container vessels to be powered by gas.
These nine 23,000-TEU ships, the first of which is due to come into service next year on the Europe-Asia route, will be refueled at Rotterdam in a similar partnership with Total.
"We're in the process of creating an LNG market for very large ships," Farid Trad, CMA CGM's head of bunkering, said by telephone.
"We're looking at ports everywhere, the idea is to roll out LNG worldwide."
The refueling arrangements at Rotterdam and Marseille would allow vessels to carry out a return journey to Asia without requiring additional refueling stops, Trad said.
Total and Japanese company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines said in a separate statement they had signed a contract to build a second LNG bunker vessel that would be positioned in Marseille.
A constraint with LNG refueling is that it takes about twice as long as for traditional oil-based ship fuel, partly due to security requirements, Xavier Leclercq, CMA CGM's fleet director, added.
CMA CGM expects to have 20 LNG-powered ships by 2022, including smaller vessels run by its Containerships subsidiary in northern Europe.
Like other shipping firms, the group will also use low-sulphur fuel oil and engine filters to comply with the new international emissions standards.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Mark Potter and Bate Felix)