The Connecticut Maritime Association’s May luncheon in Darien, Conn., featured Peter Keller, executive vice president of TOTE. Seattle-based TOTE operates vessels in two Jones Act trades — the Tacoma, Wash.-Alaska lane and the Jacksonville, Fla.-Puerto Rico run.

Keller's presentation, "Maritime LNG, The Future is Now," came five weeks after the launch of the Isla Bella, the first of two TOTE LNG newbuilds at the NASSCO yard in San Diego. The vessel is expected to enter the Puerto Rico service in October. A sister vessel will be launched later this year and enter the Puerto Rico service in late 2016. The U.S. Maritime Administration (Marad) is providing Title XI guarantees on debt finance for the vessels.

The LNG fuel supply chain was acknowledged to be one of the biggest challenges for TOTE, which will utilize a barge being built at Conrad Shipyard (in Orange, Texas). LNG fuel will be held in one tank, described as 2,200 m3, equipped with Mark III Flex cargo containment technology, licensed from Gaztransport & Technigaz. ABS will class the barge.

The barge, to be owned by a group that includes WesPac Midstream (tied to Oaktree Capital, a large investor throughout the maritime space), will first be deployed in Tacoma to serve TOTE’s existing but soon to repowered Orca-class vessels. Foss (a sister company of TOTE under the umbrella of the Saltchuk Group) will be pushing the LNG barge while it is deployed there.

After an LNG production plant is completed at Tacoma by gas supplier Puget Sound Energy, the barge will then be shifted to Jacksonville in 2018 to serve the two newbuilds. The Tacoma production plant will fuel vessels via a cryogenic pipeline.

On the East Coast, permitting has begun at Jacksonville for a new liquefaction facility, with gas sourced from Pivotal LNG, a unit of AGL Resources, to be partly owned by WesPac Midstream. Meanwhile, CleanMarine Energy, another part of the barge-owning consortium, said that more barges are expected “to enter our fleet in the near future to serve the growing markets.”

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