Mitsui OSK Lines has unveiled plans for a concept study of a large coastal ammonia carrier in a move it hopes will bring economies of scale to the transportation of this potential green fuel.

The Japanese shipowning giant is teaming up with subsidiary company and coastal tanker specialist Asahi Tanker and ship manager IKOUS for the study, which envisages launching a vessel potentially within the next five years.

Ammonia is currently transported around Japan’s coasts by vessels that have an average capacity of just 1,000 cbm.

The capacity of the concept vessel will be around 10,000 cbm, which is hoped will increase economic efficiency and address the issue of a shortage of seafarers, which has recently become a challenge for the maritime industry.

In Japan, ammonia is currently used as a raw material for fertilisers and its shipping volume is limited, according to MOL.

However, as part of the growing decarbonisation drive, the demand for ammonia is expected to grow worldwide as it offers a next-generation clean energy source that does not emit CO2 during combustion.

“A sharp increase in demand is also expected in Japan, where ammonia is transported by coastal shipping to electric power utilities and other consumers after being imported by oceangoing vessels,” MOL said.

In addition to the development of the ship itself, resources will also be devoted to improving crew retention rates by reducing their workload and well-being as well as vessel safety.

Proposed areas of study will include developing onshore support for engine operation, remote control of cargo handling, automatic monitoring of the vessel’s mooring status and improvements in communications as well as living conditions on board.