Japanese shipping firm Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line) is accelerating steps towards the launch of an ammonia-fuelled ammonia gas carrier, eyeing an October 2026 date.

NYK Line signed an agreement with domestic machine manufacturer TB Global Technologies on 16 August, to jointly develop a ship-to-ship ammonia bunkering equipment called “bunkering boom”. The bunkering boom is used on bunkers to supply liquid marine fuel to vessels, and is already used in LNG-fuelled ships. NYK Line and TB Global Technologies intend to develop a bunkering boom for use of ammonia as a marine fuel.

One of the challenges of handling fuel ammonia is its toxicity. The bunkering boom will help avoid ammonia leakage in instances where there is an urgent need to disengage the bunkers from the ammonia-fuelled vessels, such as during natural disasters.

NYK will share with TB Global Technologies data and knowledge gained from development of an ammonia bunkering barge and LNG bunkering operations started in 2020, as a step towards the launch of ammonia-fuelled vessels.

NYK is separately developing engines that burn ammonia as a marine fuel. The company earlier this year successfully co-fired 80pc ammonia with conventional fuel oil for a four-stroke ammonia-fueled engine in a trial, conducted along with Japanese engine developer IHI Power Systems and Japan Engine, shipbuilder Nihon Shipyard and classification society Class NK.

The results of the demonstration will be utilised for an ammonia-powered tugboat, which is expected to be launched in June 2024 at Yokohama port in Tokyo Bay. The companies will also utilise the study to develop ammonia-fuelled engines for ocean-going vessels.