The arrival of LNG-fuelled ships such as the Viking Grace will be a focal point for ports in 2013. Port expansion project planning this year is likely to be dominated by two regions, say industry watchers: Brazil and offshore south-east Africa.
And of those two, Africa is likely to figure more prominently because Brazil is proving so unpredictable. “Pinning the authorities down on requirements such as sub-contracting to domestic companies is vexing,” says an executive of a US corporation. “Deadlines for requests for proposals and the qualifications for eligibility can also be moveable.”
In theory a $26bn package is up for grabs for 34 ports, of which $10bn is said to have been bid for 23 projects. In a break with past policy, bids are being judged on the lowest fees per volume of cargo. The government wants most of the work to be done between 2014 and 2017, which has been met with a large amount of scepticism.
Brazil estimates that volumes will reach 1bn tonnes a year by 2030.
Offshore Africa is seen as a very different matter, because liquefied natural gas is involved. The prime development is offshore Mozambique, with plans to set up a storage plant in the north of the country.
Together with Kenya and Tanzania, reserves in the region are estimated to be more than 100tr cubic feet.
LNG is now so important and developing so fast, that the IAPH is treating it as a special resource. “LNG is a hot issue in the global port community and we’ll have a panel about it at the World Ports Conference here in LA in May,” says IAPH’s Geraldine Knatz. Adding to the interest is that Marpol Annex VI requires ships to burn low-sulphur fuel or LNG.
“Beyond just facility planning,” says Ms Knatz, “there’s a real need for ports to stay informed so we can influence the safety and operational regulations that need to be formed in the coming months and years. IAPH also has a work group to develop port guidelines for the use of LNG. Ports are at the centre of LNG bunkering, transport and temporary storage; so the voice of ports needs to influence national and international policy considerations.”
Says CDM Smith’s Paul Bingham: “Potentially volatile gas (and other competitor fuel) prices could change the outlook quickly however, either up or down, so risk remains with investment in costly long-lived LNG fuel handling facility investments.
“In certain markets (e.g. North America) facility expansion (or conversion from LNG import gasification to export liquefaction) is likely warranted from the domestic gas production boom and availability for export; in other markets the economics may not yet justify rapid facility expansion.”
US ports are readying for a huge increase in LNG shipments. Freeport in Texas is leasing 170 acres for a regasification plant that will cost several billion dollars.