Rapid Shift to Methanol Fuels X-Press Feeders’ Fleet

Pioneering Maritime Sustainability with Immediate Vessel Conversions and Innovative Methanol Propulsion Systems

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The logistics and maritime industry is witnessing an unprecedented shift towards methanol-fueled operations, a change that is happening faster than the sector had anticipated just a few years ago. X-Press Feeders is at the forefront of this transformation, preparing to launch a methanol-fueled feeder network in northern Europe this year. Demonstrating their commitment to sustainable maritime practices, they have decided to convert several of their vessels from being methanol-ready to fully operational on methanol immediately.

On June 23, the Eco Umande was handed over to X-Press Feeders for the second time in recent months, marking a significant milestone as it embarked on two days of sea trials with its new methanol propulsion systems. Chinese officials hailed this development, noting that while the ship was initially built methanol-ready, its final conversion to a methanol-fueled vessel was completed at a shipyard after its delivery in March 2024.

X-Press Feeders is not stopping there. The company is constructing 14 similar vessels across various Chinese shipyards. The first of these, the Eco Maestro (13,900 dwt), built by Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings, was handed over about a month ago. After refueling in Singapore last month, the Eco Maestro is on its delivery run and is expected to arrive in Las Palmas on June 30. These ships, designed by German naval architects TECHNOLOG Services, are 485 feet (148 meters) long and have a capacity of 1,170 TEUs. They are equipped with the new MAN 5S5ME methanol engine, allowing them to achieve speeds of 14.5 knots. Designed for efficiency, these ships include features such as shaft generators, adjustable propellers, and suspended flap rudders.

The Eco Umande, built by New Dayang Shipbuilding and delivered to X-Press Feeders in March, was immediately sent to Zhoushan Pacific Offshore Engineering for conversion to operate fully on methanol or green methanol. The shipyard undertook a complex conversion process, which involved installing seven new systems including the methanol fuel system, nitrogen system, methanol equipment room bilge water system, methanol tank ventilation and stripping system, LFSS instrument air system, and foam system. Additionally, eight existing systems were modified to accommodate the new fuel type, including the CO2 system, ship-wide air measurement system, engine room water supply system, high and low temperature fresh water-cooling systems, compressed air system, control air system, fire water system, and ventilation system.

DNV has highlighted the rapid adoption of methanol as a preferred fuel for new vessel orders. Currently, there are 269 vessels on order set for delivery over the next five years that will be outfitted for methanol operations. X-Press Feeders has indicated that the Eco Maestro will undergo further testing upon reaching Europe, with plans for the next phase of work to commence in the third quarter. The 14 vessels are scheduled for delivery through mid-2026, with Zhoushan Pacific already working on the second vessel conversion set for July 2024.

Meanwhile, China’s Zhoushan Xinya Ship Repair Company is preparing for its first full conversion project. Maersk has contracted the yard to convert the Maersk Halifax (178,257 dwt / 15,262 TEU) from traditional fuel to methanol operations. The vessel is expected to arrive in Shanghai on July 10, with conversion work starting five days later. This project is anticipated to take about three months, making the Maersk Halifax the first large ocean-going containership retrofitted to methanol operations.

In addition to X-Press Feeders and Maersk, other major players in the industry are also embracing methanol conversions. Hapag-Lloyd, in collaboration with Seaspan and CMA CGM, has contracted some of the first in-service containership conversions to methanol. Stena Line, known for its ferry operations, has also designated two of its ferries for methanol conversions.

This rapid transition to methanol is not just a trend but a significant move towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly maritime operations. Methanol, as a cleaner alternative to traditional marine fuels, promises to reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry, aligning with global efforts to combat climate change and promote greener practices in all sectors.

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