Japan eyes domestic production of fuel tanks for LNG-powered ships

Courtesy of Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co.
A rendering of an LNG-fueled ferry under construction at Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co.

The transport ministry plans to conduct research on the domestic production of fuel tanks for liquefied natural gas-powered ships.

LNG-fueled vessels are attracting attention amid the decarbonization drive, and demand for such ships is increasing.

However, Japan relies on China for the fuel tanks, and the government hopes to ensure a stable supply of tanks made in Japan.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is also considering making fuel tank manufacturing a new business in the shipbuilding field.

According to the ministry, LNG-fueled ships can reduce carbon dioxide emissions to about three-quarters of those emitted by heavy oil-fueled vessels.

In Japan, some companies began introducing LNG-fueled ships in 2015, and five such vessels have been built so far.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. plans to increase the number of LNG-fueled vessels in its fleet to about 90 by 2030.

Most fuel tanks, which are a fundamental component of LNG-powered ships, are said to be made in China, which has a large market share in the shipbuilding industry.

Such fuel tanks are not widely produced in Japan, which lacks the personnel and facilities necessary for their production.

If demand for LNG-fueled ships rises, procuring the tanks from China could become difficult.

The ministry is conducting interviews with shipbuilding companies to identify issues that need to be addressed to promote domestic production. Beginning next fiscal year, the ministry will study the possibility of standardizing fuel tanks to reduce costs.

The government hopes Japan will receive orders to manufacture fuel tanks in the future.