American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has given approval in principle for an ammonia bunkering vessel design being developed by partners Mitsui OSK Lines, Itochu Corp and Sembcorp Marine.

If built, it will be the first vessel of its kind. The project is part of a joint development study on an ammonia fuel supply chain in Singapore.

MOL, which already has experience of LNG bunkering vessels, said it will play a leading role in the project with its partners in the LNG bunkering business in Singapore: TotalEnergies Marine Fuels and Pavilion Energy Singapore.

The ammonia bunkering vessel, which incorporates extensive safety measures to take account of ammonia's toxicity, was jointly designed by MOL and Itochu in cooperation with Sembcorp Marine Integrated Yard and LMG Marin.

A risk assessment Hazard Identification Study was undertaken by the partners in Singapore as part of attaining approval from ABS. The design of the cargo containment and bunkering systems included input from Wartsila Gas Solutions and Trelleborg Westbury/KLAW LNG.

Ammonia is in the spotlight as a promising future clean energy source that produces no carbon dioxide during combustion. Manufacturers are working to develop an ammonia-fuelled engine, with delivery of the first ammonia-fuelled vessel expected in the late 2020s.

MOL is working to develop an ammonia transport business and hopes to launch net zero-emission oceangoing vessels this decade and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Sembcorp Marine president and chief executive Wong Weng Sun said: "This collaboration clearly underpins the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation's ongoing pursuit to define the safety and operation envelopes to enable ammonia pilot demonstrations in Singapore."

The Sembcorp Group is already building a 12,000-cbm vessel for MOL, which, when completed, will be the largest LNG bunkering vessel built in Singapore.

In April 2021, Sembcorp Marine also entered a memorandum of understanding with Shell and Penguin International to develop hydrogen as a marine fuel.

"We are cognisant that the push to accelerate decarbonisation must be supported by a portfolio of solutions," Sun added.