New LNG bunkering start-up eyes future of marine energy

05 Jun New LNG bunkering start-up eyes future of marine energy

Shipping division will design, build and operate a fleet of liquefied natural gas bunkering vessels, while a commercial arm will have a presence in seven key ports internationally

Probunkers, a new company formed to invest in liquefied natural gas bunkering worldwide, has longer term plans to trade the commodity and, eventually, provide marine energy of the future such as fuel cell technology

A NEW company formed to invest in liquefied natural gas bunkering worldwide believes it can change the future of shipping and bunkering.

Probunkers may have given its public launch at the Posidonia maritime fair in Greece, but it has its eyes set firmly on the future of vessel energy, including the potential of fuel cells and innovative marine fuels.

Headquartered in Athens, Probunkers comprises a shipping division to design, build and operate a fleet of LNG bunkering vessels, and a commercial arm that will have a presence in seven key ports internationally.

The $343m turnkey project will take the company through the next 10 years of development, after which it will seek outside investors.

“At present we are concentrating on bunkering, but we see in the future potential for trading as we develop and become bigger,” company chief executive and the project’s architect, Alexander Prokopakis said.

“New projects could come along. We are starting with seven ports initially, but there could be 10, 12, 15 – and an opportunity to revolutionise shipping.”

The selected ports are based on their leading position as bunkering suppliers and the expectation they will have LNG storage capability by 2025. Ports include Houston, Gibraltar, ARA, Fujairah, Singapore, Busan and Hong Kong.

The ports will serve ships calling in the US, Europe, the Middle East Gulf, Southeast Asia and Far East.

The start-up plans to supply newbuilding vessels only, which by current estimates will be approximately 600 by 2022. Very few existing vessels are expected to convert to LNG fuel due to high cost involved in these projects.

Investment costs in the owned and operated newbuilding barges will be covered by the turnkey investment.

Mr Prokopakis said the ownership model was the only way to ensure full asset safety across the lifecycle, echoing sentiment heard from the top three LNG vessel owners this week, George Prokopiou, John Angelicoussis and Peter Livanos.

“We believe in the full value cycle. In LNG it is better to own the vessels – take full responsibility for the asset,” he said.

US classification society will be the start-ups technical advisor.

The company will source its LNG initially from local markets before becoming a cargo trader in its own right.

It estimates that additional supply chain cost in its services are in the range of between $35-$70.

Probunkers expects to close the first stage of the project by end 2018 and to start operations in the second half of 2022.

“I anticipate 2018 to be a landmark year for the expansion of LNG as a marine fuel into shipping,” Mr Prokopakis said.

“We are determined to turn Probunkers into a world-class investment opportunity and fulfill our vision to build a reliable global-scale LNG bunkering network,” he added.

The company is focussed on an initial 30-year ‘transitional’ period when it sees LNG as the best marine fuel option in terms of emissions and price. That equates to approximately two generations of newbuilding vessels.

After that the company would transform into a supplier of the energy of the future – be it fuel cells or other as yet known energy sources, Mr Prokopakis said.

Mr Prokopakis is a former senior executive at the the Mamidakis Brothers Group, leading its shipping, bunkering and aviation activities through companies JetOil, JetTank and Styga Compania Naviera.

Probunkers is being backed by Oceanking Technical & Trading, a leading technical and commercial marine company that is a key player in its fields of business in the Greek market.

Oceanking partner and president Panos Yannoulis is Probunkers’ president and chairman and Costas Hassiotis, Oceanking’s founder.

Source: Lloyds List