Water travel by gas02 September 2020

The Volkswagen Group has deployed a car freighter powered by liquefied natural gas, with a second due to enter service later this year. The move marks a new direction for heavy shipping. By Adam Offord

By 2025, Volkswagen (VW) Group aims to reduce its total net CO2 emissions by 30%; 25 years beyond then, it aims to be CO2-neutral. As part of that, all transport operations conducted by the company, whether by water, road or rail, must be climate-friendly. In a bid to achieve this goal, VW Group Logistics has taken delivery of two car freighters powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is cleaner-burning than bunker fuel.

The two charter ships of Siem Car Carriers were commissioned in 2015, with construction beginning in 2018. The first – Siem Confucius – was launched in Xiamen, China, in November last year and made its maiden voyage, transporting more than 4,800 vehicles, from Emden, Germany, to Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico in June 2020. The second transporter – Siem Aristotle – plans to enter service this year.

Thomas Zernechel, VW head of group logistics, explains: “We are entering a new field here to reduce emissions. Both ships are the first overseas car freighters in the world to be LNG-powered. In addition to the increasing use of LNG trucks, conversion of our many rail transports to green electricity and the use of biofuel in the short sea segment, the two new LNG ships represent an important building block for our strategic goal of climate-neutral logistics.”


Like her sister ship, the Siem Confucius is 200m long and 38m wide. It has 13 car decks and a capacity of 7,500 CEU (car equivalent units), which corresponds to around 4,800 vehicles in the Volkswagen Group model mix, from passenger cars to light commercial vehicles.

Each vessel features individual MAN Energy Solutions’ B&W S60ME-GI (gas injection) dual-fuel, two-stroke engines that deliver 12,600 kW with direct injection and exhaust-gas treatment to reduce emissions. Each main engine is also accompanied by one 7L28/32DF and two 9L28/32DF dual-fuel auxiliary engines (www.is.gd/epubid).

MAN reports that these are the first 28/32DF engines to be built in a seven-cylinder variant. All gensets are turbocharged by individual MAN TCR 16 and TCR 18 turbochargers, with the entire set-up overseen by MAN’s proprietary SaCoS engine-control system (www.is.gd/abanaz). Each vessel is also driven by a four-bladed MAN Alpha fixed pitch propeller. The propellers have a diameter of 6.95m and were produced by MAN’s propeller licensee, Dalian Marine Propeller, in China. In eco-speed mode, the ships are capable of running at 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h).

In addition to the cryogenic gas, the vessels can also be operated with syngas or biogas. Both ships are equipped with two 1,800 m3 LNG tanks installed below deck to fuel the B&W ME-GI main drivers.

Bjarne Foldager, senior vice-president and head of two-stroke business at MAN Energy Solutions, says: “Our dual-fuel portfolio can rightly be considered as mature technology with references now in every major marine segment. Furthermore, the ME-GI’s use of the diesel combustion principle ensures that it can easily adapt to run on whatever fuels the industry may prefer in the future.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen Group Logistics adds: “The engine employs the diesel combustion cycle, which results in a very stable combustion process and allows for any LNG compositions to be burned as fuel without the need to de-rate the engine or hinder engine acceleration. The main engine and gas supply system can accept any liquefied methane gas, which includes biogas or synthetic-LNG (or eLNG) from power-to-X plants. We are currently assessing the usage of these fuels.”


The LNG engines reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25%, nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 30%, particulate matter by up to 60% and sulphur oxide emissions by up to 100% per ship. Those figures refer to general data for LNG as fuel, according to VW Group Logistics. The spokesperson says: “What is worth noting is that the ME-GI engines deployed in these ships have the lowest possible methane slip available in the market. It is 10-15 times lower than any alternative in the market.”

According to VW Group logistics, the engines comply with the IMO regulations and regulations in SECA (sulphur emission control areas; more information on IMO marine engine regulations can be found at www.is.gd/abonil).

Uwe Lauber, chief executive officer at MAN Energy Solutions, comments: “We believe that the switch to LNG as marine fuel is the most important basis for a maritime energy revolution. In a second step, gas-capable ships can be operated with synthetically produced, climate-neutral fuels and are therefore future-proof. With this project, Volkswagen is pioneering the decarbonisation of global trade flows.”

Volkswagen Group Logistics organises, coordinates and is responsible for around 7,700 ship departures worldwide every year. Several hundred liners and 11 car freighter charter ships, two of which are now being replaced by the LNG units, sail the world’s oceans for the group every day. The LNG vessels will be in service for Volkswagen Logistics until at least 2027, and during that time will carry out up to eight round trips per ship, per year.

BOX: Gas – in brief

Gas network operator SGN is planning to supply energy to homes in Fife, Scotland, using hydrogen rather than natural gas, as part of the Hydrogen 100 (H100) demonstration project. On completion, this project will be the first of its kind to employ a direct supply of offshore wind renewable power to produce green hydrogen energy (via an on-shore electrolyser), heating up to 300 homes in the first instance. Engineering consultancy Wood delivered preliminary engineering design services. Operation is due to begin in a few years.

Lloyds Transport and Warehousing, a Tamworth-based logistics company, has added four eco-friendly vehicles to its fleet as it continues to ‘invest in the future’. The firm worked with truck dealer Guest Truck and Van to assess its eco-requirements before selecting IVECO LNG-powered tractor units to add to its fleet, choosing four Stralis 6x2 NP LNG trucks.

Volvo Trucks has launched four new truck models that deliver safety and productivity improvements. The four heavy-duty trucks are new generations of the FH, FH16, FM and FMX models, which together represent around two-thirds of Volvo Trucks sales. Volvo says the trucks will be offered with a range of drivelines, including the LNG-powered engine for the FH and FM. The new FH is also available with a new Euro VI turbo compound diesel engine, the D13TC, which, as part of Volvo’s I-Save package, can deliver 7% fuel savings, it says.

Weir Minerals, a heavy engineering business, made the decision to commit to a brand new fleet of 55 vehicles when its forklift fleet contract came up for review in autumn 2019. Rushlift, a UK subsidiary of Doosan Industrial Vehicles, was selected as the preferred supplier. Of the 55 new vehicles supplied by Rushlift to Weir Minerals, the vast majority were Doosan products – LPG gas, diesel and electric counterbalance models, across a vast range of capacities from the latest electric B15R-7 three-wheeler, right up to Doosan’s heavy lifting DV250S-7, with a capability to lift loads of up to 25 tonnes.

Adam Offord

Related Companies
MAN Diesel & Turbo UK Ltd

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