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Gagarin Prospect the world’s first Aframax tanker designed to run on LNG has been named as the winner of the 2019 Next Generation Ship Award at the Nor-Shipping opening ceremony in Oslo last night. The trophy was presented to the owner by Minister of Trade, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.

Owned and operated by Sovcomflot, Gagarin Prospect was delivered from Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries in July 2018 and is time-chartered to Shell for up to ten years.

She is the first of an initial order of six such vessels by Sovcomflot as part of its ‘Green Funnel’ initiative, launched in partnership with Shell to introduce LNG as a primary fuel for large-capacity tankers and, in general, for vessels not tied to fixed routes or set timetables.

With her ice class 1A hull, Gagrarin Prospect is designed for year-round export operations from areas with challenging ice conditions. She is equipped with ice radars and spotlights, ensuring full compliance with the recently introduced Polar Code. Her main engines, auxiliaries, and boilers are dual fuel and the ship runs regularly on LNG. She is fitted with a low-pressure X-DF dual fuel engine, to minimise the emissions of particulate matter. When not utilising LNG fuel, the installation of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology enables her to comply with the Tier III regulations governing NOx emissions.

The Next Generation Ship Award is a celebration of innovation in ship design and technology. It has become an integral part of the NorShipping exhibition since it was first given in 2011. This year the award has been combined with the Energy Efficiency Award and opened out to existing ships built since the last Nor-Shipping exhibition in 2017 and to older ships which have undergone retrofit or conversion as well as newbuilding scheduled to debut over the next five years.

The winning entry beat off strong competition from the other three vessels on the jury shortlist. Teekay’s E-Shuttle tanker which will feature a hybrid propulsion system and be fuelled by LNG and Volatile organic compounds emissions from the cargo itself; AET’s shuttle tanker which is also LNG-fuelled and can use VOC emissions and Yara Birkeland the electric powered ship destined to become the world’s first truly autonomous vessel.

Jury Chairman Malcolm Latarche, said, “I have been involved with these awards since they were first inaugurated and I cannot recall a time when there was such a passionate discussion about the merits of the shortlisted candidates. There was fierce debate among the jury as to which of the four ships had the best claim to the title with the result being a majority rather than a unanimous decision. The jury’s final decision went to Gagarin Prospect with the argument that while it may not be as technologically advanced as some of the other contenders that are still under construction, the decision to build the ship was taken at a point in time at the beginning of the seven year time span covered by the award.

When ordered, the LNG fuelling infrastructure was in its infancy with no guarantee that would improve at the rate it has. The ship was also ordered without a long-term charter in place making the decision a bold pioneering one which many of the jury felt fully reflected the ethos of the Next Generation Award criteria”.

“I have to say that all of the ships entered this year were worthy contenders and while there can only be one winner, I think that all of the ships and projects entered will be winners commercially because they are of a high calibre” Latarche added.

The entry criteria for ships allows for vessels built or converted from the time of the last Nor-Shipping exhibition in 2017 to vessel planned for delivery in 2024 – a spread of seven years technological advances. Perhaps even more considering at least three of the ships were built before 2017 and were allowed as they had undergone major conversion or retrofit.