ARKANSAS, January 27 (Future Headlines)- Japan is making maritime history with the construction of the world’s first ammonia-fueled medium gas carrier (AFMGC), a groundbreaking initiative led by a consortium comprising Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), Japan Engine Corporation, IHI Power Systems, and Nihon Shipyard. The consortium recently finalized contracts to build the vessel, marking a significant stride toward decarbonizing the maritime sector and showcasing Japan’s prowess in advancing sustainable technologies. This ambitious project, supported by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and ClassNK, underscores the nation’s commitment to driving innovation and leading the global transition to cleaner marine fuels.
In October 2021, the consortium, along with partner organization ClassNK, embarked on a Green Innovation Fund Project initiated by NEDO. Their collaborative efforts aimed to develop a demonstration project for the commercialization of vessels equipped with domestically produced ammonia-fueled engines. Overcoming challenges related to vessel design and development, the partners designed a prototype vessel that secured Approval in Principle (AiP) in September 2022, validating its safety concept and risk assessment.
The finalized contracts pave the way for the construction of a 40,000 cbm type ammonia-fueled carrier at the Japan Marine United Corporation (JMU) Ariake Shipyard. The vessel, scheduled for delivery in November 2026, is set to redefine maritime transportation by leveraging ammonia as a next-generation fuel. Japan Engine Corporation will take charge of the ship’s main engine, producing an innovative ammonia fuel dual-fuel two-stroke engine. Concurrently, IHI Power System will contribute by providing the auxiliary engine.
The choice of ammonia as a fuel for the AFMGC aligns with global efforts to achieve net-zero emissions in international shipping. Unlike conventional fossil fuels, ammonia combustion does not emit carbon dioxide (CO₂), positioning it as a crucial next-generation fuel in the fight against global warming. The consortium’s commitment to developing and constructing the AFMGC is a strategic move toward practicalizing ammonia-fueled ships and advancing the maritime industry’s contribution to sustainability.
Beyond its application in maritime transportation, ammonia is experiencing a surge in demand for various purposes, including fertilizer production and use as a hydrogen carrier. The consortium anticipates a rapid growth in ammonia demand both in Japan and overseas, fostering the establishment of a comprehensive ammonia value chain. As Japan envisions a cleaner and less environmentally burdensome ammonia value chain, the AFMGC project becomes integral to realizing a decarbonized society.
The maritime industry holds paramount importance for Japan, accounting for over 99% of the nation’s imports and exports by weight. As the consortium pioneers fuel conversion for zero emissions, it sees this endeavor as an opportunity to leverage the technological capabilities of the Japanese maritime cluster. By supplying ships with high environmental performance and safety ahead of other nations, the consortium aims to strengthen Japan’s international competitiveness in the maritime sector.
While the international rules for ships using ammonia as fuel are yet to be established, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is actively engaging in discussions on the matter. The AFMGC project positions itself as a trailblazer, providing invaluable knowledge gained from the construction and operation of ammonia-fueled ships. The consortium, in collaboration with ClassNK and Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), is poised to contribute actively to the ongoing international rulemaking discussions at the IMO.
Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White