Shipping Firm Receives Permit to Convert Ships to LNG

This week, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) announced that it has been granted approval by EPA and the US Coast Guard to convert two of its ORCA-class vessels to operate on LNG. The permits provide a conditional waiver from recently mandated diesel sulfur requirements while the company pursues the switch to natural gas. According to TOTE’s press release, “the permit was issued by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) under authority provided in Regulation 3 of Annex VI.” The two ORCA class vessels, the Midnight Sun and North Star, delivered in 2003, are large ocean going vessels, more than 800 feet in length with the capacity to carry up to 600 forty-foot-equivalent units of containers and 220 vehicles. TOTE operates the vessels on scheduled service from Tacoma, Washington, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of 1,400 miles each way and 2,800 miles round-trip. The plan is for the ships to carry enough LNG to make the round-trip without refueling in Alaska.

The project to convert the two ships and build a small LNG liquefaction facility is expected to cost more than $80 million and take five years to complete. Each vessel has six engines—four main engines and two auxiliary engines. The installation of LNG infrastructure at the Port of Tacoma is expected to benefit other fuel users including freight companies at the Port of Tacoma. Tote’s decision has been praised by the Coalition for Responsible Transportation. Interest in LNG ships has been growing. Washington State Ferries recently issue an RFP to convert six of its ferries to LNG.

Totem Ocean Trailer Express is one of six operating companies owned by TOTE, Inc., a subsidiary of Saltchuk Resources of Seattle, Washington. The privately-owned shipping company has operated roll-on/roll-off cargo vessels between the ports of Tacoma, Washington, and Anchorage, Alaska, since 1975. For more information, contact Jeff Clarke at 202.824.7364 or