Engineer Raises Safety Concerns over Ferry Operator's LNG Conversion Plans

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Tuesday January 6, 2015

A Chief Engineer for Washington State Ferries' (WSF) has raised safety concerns over the company's plans to convert six vessels to run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), local media reports.

Alex Zecha, Chief Engineer of the ferry Klahowya, said that classification society Det Norsk Veritas had a conflict of interest when it concluded that WSF's proposal was "inherently safe with risks as low as reasonably practicable," following a study into the proposed conversions.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), not WSF, should have chosen who to conduct the study to ensure objectivity, said Zecha.

WSF has estimated the cost of retrofitting the six ferries at $103 million, expecting fuel savings to more than cover the investment over the remainder of the vessels' 60-year lifespan.

The comments come towards the end of a 60-day public comment period initiated by the USCG.

Zecha claimed that plans to house LNG tanks on the vessels' top decks was a potential danger to passengers as the design of the vessels means they would be the first things hit in a collision.

The vessels also do not feature a refuge area for passengers to use in the event of a fire, according to Zecha, who also criticised the fact that WSF does not plan to install gas detectors in the passenger cabins.

It is not yet clear what impact the comments, which were delivered to Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, will have on WSF's conversion proposals.

BC Ferries said late last year it aimed to cut its bunker bills in half by converting its two largest ferries to LNG.