Classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has signed a joint development programme (JDP) agreement with Probunkers to develop a fleet of liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker vessels for major ports worldwide.

As part of the agreement, ABS and Probunkers will work together to provide regulatory compliance assistance for the fleet as well as define applicable rules and standards.

ABS will also identify technical and operational challenges, as well as advise on technological solutions in various fields involving vessel capacity, dimensions, required power and speed, as well as propulsion and manoeuvring systems.

Under the agreement, Probunkers will design, build, own and operate the vessels in seven ports initially in Houston, US; Rotterdam or Antwerp, Netherlands; Gibraltar; Singapore; Hong Kong; Busan, South Korea; and Fujairah, UAE.

“LNG is an attractive proposition for shipowners and operators responding to the 2020 Sulphur Cap.”

The JDP will also facilitate suitability analysis of existing technologies for cargo containment, LNG handling and transfer systems, as well as boil-off handling systems.

ABS global business development vice-president Peter Fitzpatrick said: “With its low-sulphur emissions, LNG is an attractive proposition for shipowners and operators responding to the 2020 Sulphur Cap.

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“However, lack of bunkering infrastructure has been one of the key constraints on its adoption.

“As a global leader in LNG, ABS has a wealth of expertise to help probunkers meet the technical and operational challenges that a project of this scale and ambition will need to overcome.”

Probunkers was established last year with headquarters in Athens, Greece.

The company intends to have shareholding control over a group of companies operating in the shipping and energy industries.