The World's Largest Natural Gas-Powered Ships Are Almost Ready to Sail

Getting a fully-laden cargo ship across an entire ocean requires enormous amounts of energy—usually derived from pollutant-rich diesel fuel. But one environmentally-minded shipping company has bucked that convention and instead begun construction on a pair of hybrid containerships—the first of their kind—that run primarily on cleaner burning liquefied natural gas.

The 3,100 TEU Marlin-class containerships are currently under construction at the General Dynamics' NASSCO shipyard in San Diego for TOTE Shipholdings. These $350 million vessels will measure 764 feet in length when completed late next year, making them the largest ships primarily powered by LNG ever produced. They're not the only LNG-powered ships on the sea mind you, more than 40 LNG-powered vessels are already operating around the world but the Marlins will be the first to use the fuel for hauling cargo.

The World's Largest Natural Gas-Powered Ships Are Almost Ready to Sail

Each Marlin-class ship will utilize a 8L70ME-GI gas-injected, dual-fuel, low-speed diesel engine capable of running on either conventional fuel oil or LNG. When burning natural gas (stored in the 380 ton cryogenic tanks shown below), the ships are expected to produce 98 percent less sulfur oxides, 71 percent fewer nitric oxides, 71 percent less carbon dioxide, and a jaw-dropping 99 percent reduction in particulate emissions, all while increasing the vessels' fuel efficiency compared to conventional diesel engines. What's more, these ships will carry 60 percent more cargo per trip than TOTE's current class of Sea Star ships and also include a ballast water treatment system to prevent the introduction of invasive species.

Once completed, the ships will operate out of Jacksonville, Florida, transporting goods to and from San Juan, Puerto Rico. If these Marlins prove successful, TOTEs has the option to build three more in the coming years. Hopefully, the rest of the maritime shipping industry will follow suit. [G Capt 1, 2, 3 - TOTE - Port Technology ]