Classification society Det Norske Veritas (DNV) says it is preparing to release new rules for using methanol and other low-flashpoint bunker fuels.
Methanol, commonly produced from natural gas, has a flashpoint - a temperature at which it can vaporise and form a mixture that can be ignited - of only 12°C, creating safety challenges.
"Methanol is well known to DNV through our many years of working with chemical tankers and platform supply vessels that currently transport it as cargo, and we see the risks as manageable," said Tobias King, DNV project manager.
Methanol also poses additional hazards because it is toxic when touched, inhaled or ingested, and its vapour is denser than air.
The new DNV mandatory notation, which will be released July 1, 2013, covers materials, arrangement, fire safety, electrical systems, control and monitoring, machinery components, and some other considerations specific to ship segments.
Nick Brown of Lloyd's Register wrote earlier this year that methanol has potential as an alternative energy source because it can be made from natural gas but does not require the same cooling infrastructure as liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Last year, a fire broke out on a tanker that was hit by lightening while loading methanol cargo in Malaysia.