(EnergyAsia, April 26 2011, Tuesday) — Regulations and widespread government support would be needed for the shipping industry in Southeast Asia to rapidly adopt liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a bunker fuel, said industry experts.

They made this point in response to a collective effort by several companies led by Norway’s DNV and the Singapore government to promote the use of LNG as a shipping fuel. Supporters of this shift said LNG is a cleaner burning fuel, and offers a commercially viable alternative to oil, which is becoming increasingly expensive and hostage to geopolitical events in the Middle East.

Speaking at a recent shipping conference, Torben Skaanild, secretary general of shipping association BIMCO, said a meaningful shift is only likely in 2025 at the earliest.

Shipowners aren’t used to installing large tanks on board as will be the case when they use LNG as fuel, he said.

More importantly, ship owners are unlikely to invest in LNG-fuelled ships until refuelling and bunkering infrastructure is in place. And without a critical mass of LNG-fuelled ships, investors are unlikely to build refuelling and bunkering facilities.

There are other complications including the need for new legislation to deal with LNG bunkering covering ship-to-ship transfers and liabilities, port approvals for LNG activities and standard bunkering procedures.

Proponents of LNG bunkering, however, have reason to be hopeful as Norway already has 22 vessels operating on LNG as fuel. DNV said another 18 LNG-fuelled vessels are being built and will be operating in Norwegian waters by 2018.