Philly Shipyard Inc. (PSI) will build four new LNG-ready dual-fuel containerships and help form a new Jones Act carrier for the Hawaii trade, aiming to enter service in 2020 as modern emissions standards make the islands’ old steam ships obsolete.

A Matson rendering of the Aloha-class containerships to be built by Philly Shipyard.

A Matson rendering of the Aloha-class containerships to be built by Philly Shipyard.

The new ships will be a continuation of the two Aloha-class 3,600 TEU containerships that Philly Shipyard is currently building for Honolulu-based Matson Inc. at the facility near the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The 853’x115’x38’ designs from Korea Maritime Consultants Co. Ltd. (KOMAC) are the largest container vessels to be built for Jones Act trade, with deliveries scheduled for 2018 and 2019 .

Philly Shipyard’s corporate parent is Aker ASA, a Norwegian industrial investment company with interests in marine assets including oil and gas and fisheries. The shipbuilding company has a successful history promoting new Jones Act vessel owners in the U.S. market, including the American Shipping Company and Philly Tankers.

Now it plans to do the same for Hawaii. In a June 8 announcement, company officials said they are “presently engaged in advanced discussions with a major U.S. shipping operator about establishing a new, financially strong carrier with a fleet of modern vessels to be built by PSI to support commerce between the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii.

“Several prominent investors and lenders in the U.S. shipping market have expressed interest in taking part in this opportunity. In addition, a highly regarded maritime leasing company has issued an indicative offer with preliminary terms for a bareboat charter structure.”

Philly Shipyard officials said they have retained former senior U.S. shipping executives “with significant experience in the Hawaii containership trade to assist with the initiative,” including John Keenan, who served in various key leadership roles at Horizon Lines and was its president and CEO from 2007-2011.

“We are excited to get started on building a new fleet of containerships for a new carrier in the Hawaii trade and are pleased to have received such positive feedback from well-known U.S. marine players and financing sources,” said Steinar Nerbovik, Philly Shipyard’s president and CEO. “Philly Shipyard has a strong track-record of building quality vessels for this trade, and we believe local communities can benefit greatly from the safe and reliable service provided by our modern, efficient and ‘green’ ships.”

This is an opportune time, PSI says, with the islands now served by two lines including steam powered vessels near the end of their practical lives. Their reckoning is coming when MARPOL/ECA emissions rules come into effect in 2020.

“Even if these aging steamships are modified, they would be less reliable and carry significantly higher operating costs than modern vessels in areas such as fuel consumption and manning and maintenance requirements,” according to the company. “PSI believes these circumstances create a unique opportunity for a new Jones Act carrier to enter the Hawaii containership trade with a fleet of cost-efficient and eco-friendly container vessels built by PSI. Furthermore, unless these new ships enter the Hawaii trade route starting in 2020, local commerce may be adversely impacted by the new emissions standards.”

PSI has already begun design work, and is placing orders and committing finances toward long-lead items, with plans calling for delivering the first two vessels in 2020 and the second pair in 2021. The design will address key market trends, including larger sized containers, faster transit time, and LNG fuel.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.