South Korea is expected to take the initiative in setting up international standards on building ships fueled by LPG. Since LPG-powered ships are not in operation around the world, there are no international standards on building them now.
The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries recently submitted a guideline on LPG-fueled vessels at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting, industry sources said on Oct. 9.
"We presented the guideline on safety standards for building LPG-fueled ships to the IMO and experts from around the world will start discussing standards on building them in earnest," said an official of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries
Korea is spearheading the establishment of LPG-fueled ship standards because there has been no market demand for LPG-fueled ships worldwide. However, in Korea, LPG infrastructure is in place and demand has been relatively high compared to other countries. In particular, LPG is emerging as an alternative to other types of vessel fuel as the IMO plans to sharply lower the upper limit for sulfur emissions of vessels from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent staring on Jan. 1 next year.
Discussions on LPG-propelled vessels began in 2016. Kim Sung-chan, a lawmaker of the Liberal Korea Party, proposed a special act on environment-friendly ships in 2016 and it passed the National Assembly as the Act on the Promotion of Development and Distribution of Environmentally Friendly Ships last year.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries launched a task force on LPG-powered ships in 2017, and the Korean Register of Shipping submitted a research report on the feasibility and safety of LPG-fueled ships.
The Korean LPG industry is quite active about introducing LPG-powered vessels. "It is highly likely that the world’s first LPG-fueled vessels will be built in Korea," said an official of the Korean LPG industry. “If the international community moves towards eco-friendly vessel fuels, demand for LPG-fueled vessels will further grow.