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A new chapter in the development of seaborne trade in ethane is set tounfold following the January handover of an 85,000m3-capacity liquefied gascarrier for shipments from the USA to China, David Tinsley writes.


Constructed by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC), the 232-metre JS Ineos Marlin is the first of a Chinese-financed pair vested with the capability to transport a range of liquefied gases at temperatures down to the minus 104degC necessary to maintainethane in a liquid state.


The vessels have added technical significance by way of the incorporation of high capacity,Tri-lobe independent cargo tanks, and for the use of MAN dual-fuel, two-strokepropulsion machinery capable of burning ethane.


Categorised as VLECs (very large ethane carriers), the newbuilds were contracted on the strength ofa long-term contract signed in 2017 by the London-headquartered, multinational chemical company INEOS with Singapore-based SP Chemicals for the supply of US shale gas-derived ethane. Cargoes will be delivered to SP’s new gas cracker at Taixing, on the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province.


The Luxembourg-basedJaccar Group was entrusted with management of the newbuild project, while Evergas of Denmark is responsible for operation and commercial management of the ships. Vessel and gas plant design was undertaken by the German company HB Hunte Engineering.


JS Ineos Marlin embodies four cargo tanks, the three largest of which each offer a volume of around 23,000m3 and employ the Type C, Tri-lobe design developed by JHW Engineering & Contracting in cooperation with the Hartmann Group of Germany.



Length overall


Length bp


Breadth, maximum




Draught, design




Cargo capacity


Cargo tanks


Min. design temperature


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16 knots




Each tank combines three cylinders into a single unit. By improving space utilisation in the holds, the Tri-lobe solution achieves 20% more loading capacity than a conventional, bi-lobe tank within the same hull dimensions. The smaller of the four tanks is of cylindrical type. Manufacture was undertaken in China by Jiangsu Watts Offshore & Engineering (WOE), a joint venture of Watts Gallopand Jaccar Holdings.


The arrangements confer a multi-gas carrying capability encompassing ethane, ethylene, propane,butylene, butane, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), propylene oxide, propylene,butadiene, isopropylamine, propane/butane mixtures, and ammonia, and enable two different liquefied gases to be transported simultaneously. In the interests of expeditious turnarounds, the vessel is equipped with seven deepwell cargo pumps of nominal 500m3/h outturn capacity, plus one booster pump.


JS Ineos Marlin is powered by an MAN gas-injected, ME-GI two-stroke in its ethane-capable GIE version. The 6G60ME-C9.5 GIE dual-fuel engine is supplied with high-pressure gas by a proprietary pump vaporiser unit (PVU). Ethane fuel is stored in two deck-mounted cylindrical tanks. Ethane displays an emissions profile similar to that of methane, and contains negligible sulphur and lower CO2 compared toconventional liquid fuels.


The possibility to fall back on heavy fuel oil (HFO) confers a high degree of operational flexibility, and IMO Tier III NOx compliance is assured by virtue of MAN’sexhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.


Extracted from natural gas, ethane serves predominantly as a petrochemical feedstock for the production of ethylene, used as a basic component in the manufacture of many chemicals and plastics. The US shale gas revolution has created plentiful supplies of low-cost ethane.


INEOS was the first company to initiate intercontinental seaborne transportation of ethane, when the 27,500m3 JS Ineos Intrepid loaded a shipment from the Philadelphia area to Norway in March 2016.


The industry has already seen the advent of the VLEC, comparable in size to today’s very largegas carrier (VLGC), and a hybrid of LNG and LPG carrier types. The first VLEC was the 228-metre, 87,000m3 Ethane Crystal, handed over by Samsung HeavyIndustries in 2016 as the lead ship in a series booked by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries and managed from Singapore by MOL Tankship Management Asia.


The Ethane Crystalclass is based on membrane cargo tank technology developed by Gaz Transport& Technigaz (GTT), the pre-eminent player in LNG containment systems.

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