BRUSSELS -- Japanese shipping group Nippon Yusen has launched the world's first automobile-transport vessel that can run on liquefied natural gas.
The carrier, called Auto Eco, features an engine that can switch between LNG and diesel with the push of a button. It will be operated by a Nippon Yusen Norwegian unit out of the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.
The Japanese shipper, also known as NYK Line, christened the carrier at the port Monday in a ceremony attended by former Chairman Takao Kusakari and Koichi Chikaraishi, who heads the group's automobile transport business.
As a fuel, LNG emits virtually no sulfur oxides, lessening the environmental impact compared with diesel. The International Maritime Organization has toughened sulfur oxide standards for ships in the Baltic and North seas, limiting sulfur content in fuel to just 0.1% in 2015 from the previous 1%. Nippon Yusen hopes the dual-fuel LNG auto carrier will help it capture demand for transporting vehicles in European waters.
Seeking an additional revenue stream, the company also will launch a business for supplying LNG fuel to ships in Belgium in fiscal 2016 with Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp.