05 Feb Probunkers to release scope to yards on LNG bunker septet
Company plans for first vessel to be operational by end-2022 in customer-focused approach to LNG bunkering
Wannabe LNG bunker supplier Probunkers is limbering up to go out to shipbuilders with an initial request for offers on a raft of at least seven LNG bunker vessels (LNGBVs) worth up to $280m in total.
Speaking to TradeWinds on the sidelines of IQPCs LNG Bunkering Summit 2019 in Amsterdam, Probunkers chief executive Alexander Prokopakis said the company is to go out for technical and commercial proposals in the next six weeks.
The outfit is homing in on LNGBVs in the 6,500-cbm to 8,000-cbm range that it wants to station in seven key ports around the world.
Prokopakis said six different designers and five yards have already shown an interest but he expects this field to widen once the scope is issued.
He anticipates giving companies about two months to submit proposals and taking a similar period to shortlist them. The final three to five parties will be invited to speak to Probunkers’ potential customers and the terminals where it plans to operate, so ships can be designed to suit local requirements.
Prokopakis hopes a final selection will be made by the end of this year.
He anticipates building one vessel in the US, another in Europe and the remaining five in China and South Korea. The company has costed the newbuildings at between $35m and $40m each.
Prokopakis explained the company believes in economies of scale and having a large presence. “This is a game in which you need to have volume,” he said.
He sees the first LNGBV as being in operation by the end of 2022.
Cyprus-incorporated Probunkers has pinpointed Houston, Gibraltar or Algeciras, as well as the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Anterp (ARA) region, Fujairah, Hong Kong, Singapore and Busan in South Korea as the bases for its LNGBVs. He admitted that ARA is the most competitive area.
“We want to take the oily bunkering model and apply it to LNG. That’s where we think the gap is right now”
Prokopakis, who has spent 10 years in the oil bunkering sector in Greece, sees the first LNGBV being put into operation in one of the Far East locations. He believes the complications of the Jones Act requirements mean that the US unit is likely to be the last in position.
Prokopakis said the company wants to design, build and operate the LNGBVs, load LNG from the terminal and deliver it to the customer. But it does not want to trade the product globally.
The company has selected the areas in which it plans to operate on the pre-requisite that each has LNG storage nearby.
Bunkering open market
“Our idea is to build an open market for bunkering to serve the whole shipping world,” he said. “We want to take the oily bunkering model and apply it to LNG. That’s where we think the gap is right now.”
The chief executive believes that shipowners looking to buy LNG as bunkers face confusion as they enter this new sector.
“Probunkers wants to be an LNG bunkering business that supports the shipowner,” he said. “The independent bunker supplier with a worldwide presence is the best model for bunkering.”
Next month, the company plans to embark on a roadshow to raise the rest of the cash for its project. As part of its 10-year plan, a stock listing is pencilled in for 2028.