Published: 11 September 2023

In recent years, the maritime industry has witnessed a growing interest in alternative fuel options for vehicles, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) emerging as a potential choice. These new technologies can offer environmental benefits. However, it is  imperative for Members to prioritise safety during the transportation of alternative fuelled vehicles. This article provides guidance on ensuring the secure carriage of such vehicles while adhering to the regulatory framework and implementing best practices.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) sets regulations for the transportation of vehicles, including AFVs. Members should consult their flag state for conclusive advice on these regulations. Additionally, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) provides guidance on AFVs carriage.

The transport of vehicles, including AFVs, is generally governed by the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code. The applicable UN number for LNG fuelled vehicles is UN3166, which includes vehicles powered by flammable gas, fuel cells, and flammable liquid powered vehicles.

However, the IMDG code contains Special Provisions (SP) that may exempt loaded cargo from certain requirements of the IMDG code. Special Provision 961 of the IMDG code states that vehicles are not subject to the provisions of the code if certain conditions are met, such as stowing the vehicles in designated spaces approved by the flag state and ensuring there are no signs of leakage.

Before accepting the cargo for loading, the storage method for LNG fuelled vehicles should be clarified with the shipper. Consultation with the ship’s flag state and classification society may be required to determine if the storage method falls under SOLAS chapter II-2 regulation 21.1, which stipulates further requirements for ships transporting vehicles with compressed hydrogen or natural gas.

Shipowners and seafarers should undertake a structured risk assessment to evaluate the carriage considerations, cargo care, stowage, lashing requirements and any limitations.

Important factors to remember when carrying LNG fuelled vehicles on board:

  • LNG can rapidly develop vapor clouds that can easily catch fire if leaking
  • LNG is stored at very cold temperatures and contact with LNG or cold surfaces can cause cryogenic or freeze burns
  • The pressure inside the tank may rise during the voyage, requiring relief valve and ventilation. Holding time should be established to ensure the LNG vehicle does not produce flammable gases or vapours
  • The cargo should be secured according to the onboard Cargo Securing Manual (CSM) and the Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS) Code Appendix
  • The shipper should provide detailed transport instructions, including handling, additional lashing and securing requirements, and emergency protocols
  • Crew members and personnel involved in handling LNG powered vehicles should undergo specialised training to understand the unique characteristics and handling of LNG as a fuel, as well as emergency response protocols
  • The vessel should carry adequate emergency response equipment, including personal protective gear, firefighting equipment, and spill response kits

Members requiring any further guidance are advised to contact the Britannia loss prevention department.