First LNG bunkering barge in US begins work in Port Canaveral

Q-LNG 4000, guided by ATB mate Q-Ocean
Service, can deliver up to 4,000 cubic meters of
liquefied natural gas, enough to fuel two cruise ships for a seven-day voyage.

America’s first offshore bunkering barge designed specifically to deliver liquefied natural gas (LNG) began operations in Port Canaveral, Fla., in March. Q-LNG 4000 is part of an articulated tug-barge (ATB) that was constructed through an agreement between Q-LNG Transport and Shell Trading (U.S.) to provide LNG to ships and ports in Florida and the Caribbean. 

Nicknamed Q4K, the barge is based in Port Canaveral, which is the first LNG cruise port in North America. One of the vessels it will serve is the new LNG-powered Mardi Gras, a Carnival Cruise Lines ship that will begin sailing from the port this year.

“This project has been four years from concept to reality, and we are excited to welcome Q-LNG 4000 to fuel the next generation of cruise ships,” said Capt. John Murray, CEO of Port Canaveral. “We have been working closely with our cruise partners, all the federal and state regulatory agencies, and industry leaders to promote this industry initiative.”

The barge, measuring 324 feet by 64 feet with a 32.6-foot draft, has the capacity for 4,000 cubic meters of LNG, enough to fuel two cruise ships for a seven-day itinerary. In addition to ship-to-ship transfers of LNG, the barge will be used for small-scale ship-to-shore distribution. 

The barge’s ATB companion, Q-Ocean Service, measures 128 feet by 42 feet with a 21-foot draft. The 5,100-hp tug is powered by two GE 6L250 MDC EPA Tier 4 main engines linked to Wartsila z-drives. 

The Jones Act-compliant ATB is based at Port Canaveral’s newly constructed Cruise Terminal 3. The facility was completed in June 2020, but at press time it had not yet welcomed its first cruise passenger due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Q4K’s first ship-to-ship bunkering operation occurred off Port Canaveral on March 15 when the barge delivered 1,075 cubic meters of LNG to Sovcomflot’s Gagarin Prospect. The Aframax tanker, on long-term charter to Shell, was en route to Europe from Corpus Christi, Texas, when it stopped to refuel.

Q-LNG awarded the contract to build the ATB to VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Miss., in November 2017. The shipbuilder collaborated closely with Wartsila, which delivered the cargo handling, cargo control and cargo containment systems for Q4K, as well as the planned maintenance systems.

“We are proud to deliver Q-LNG 4000 to Port Canaveral,” said Chad Verret, president of Q-LNG Transport. “LNG is the marine fuel of the future; it’s domestically sourced and in abundant supply in the U.S. We look forward to supplying not only cruise ships but trading vessels in the future.”

The barge loads LNG at a distribution facility on Elba Island, Ga., and returns there to refuel after each bunkering operation in Port Canaveral. Ship-to-ship bunkering for a cruise vessel like Mardi Gras will take place during passenger debarking and embarking, the same as with conventionally powered cruise ships, and will last six to eight hours.

By Professional Mariner Staff