Maran Gas Maritime (MGM) is the youngest company in the Angelicoussis stable, but already its LNG fleet has travelled the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 500 times. Craig Jallal reviews the Maran Gas formula for success.
Maran Gas Maritime Inc was founded in 2003 as the gas shipping unit of Angelicoussis Shipping Group (ASGL), the Greek shipping company established by Antonis Angelicoussis in 1947. John Angelicoussis, son of Antonis, has led the company since 1989, adding oil and LNG shipping segments to the original bulk carrier fleet.
John’s daughter, Maria, who trained as a medical doctor, joined the company in 2009 and is now actively involved in all aspects of what is probably the largest privately held shipping group in the world.
ASGL ships are primarily Greek flagged, with Greek officers and Filipino ratings. Of the 132 vessels on the water, 26 are LNG vessels, while nine of the 20 under construction are LNG ships. The LNG newbuilding complement comprises eight conventional vessels and one floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU). The average age of the in-service LNG fleet is 3.5 years.
MGM owes much of its success to the solid long-term relationships John Angelicoussis has forged with key clients, RasGas, Shell and Woodside. This has driven growth, a recent example being the agreement to scale up the Nakilat-Maran Gas cooperative arrangement into a joint venture of 15 LNG carriers.
A key aspect to the client relationship, according to MGM, is the private nature of the business. Without having to manage quarterly earning cycles, the company can concentrate on customer requirements and build long-term relationships.
While the majority of MGM LNG ships are serving on long-term charters, those off-charter are currently working the spot market. According to a company spokesperson, MGM has a four-person commercial team that handles all term, spot and FSRU chartering activities. Brokers are used where they provide value, but the company does not charter-in vessels or manage them on behalf of third parties.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) has been a popular choice of yard for MGM, having built 16 of the 26 LNG vessels in service and having secured all nine vessels currently on order.
When it comes to the propulsion system for its LNG carrier (LNGC) newbuildings ordered against charters, MGM reports that the choice is down to its customers. A spokesman for MGM said: “DSME has the capability to build vessels with either ME-GI or X-DF engines. From MGM’s perspective, we understand enough of both technologies to operate them efficiently and we are willing to employ whichever propulsion type a customer requests.”
However, MGM does have a preference. “For our speculative newbuild orders, we have selected ME-GI engines as our preferred option. Compared to X-DF, our ME-GI arrangement offers a lower operating cost for the same capex spend. Therefore, it is the most economical and efficient solution for customers wishing to employ the vessel.”
The company said its ME-GI vessels were equipped with two compressors, a full reliquefaction system and a full gas combustion unit (GCU) to provide a valuable level of redundancy. They also include exhaust gas treatment systems to ensure Tier III compliance. Furthermore, the ME-GI engine does not suffer from methane slip, which is an issue for the X-DF option.
Maintenance challenges of diesel engines
MGM believes there are still challenges to overcome with regards the maintenance of diesel engines compared to steam turbines. The introduction of diesel engines has lowered the delivered fuel cost required to ship 1 m3of LNG by about 50%, according to the company.
However, in MGM’s opinion, this improvement in LNG vessel efficiency has come with increased maintenance requirements to support the diesel propulsion plant. Whereas for steam vessels, main engine maintenance would take place during regularly scheduled dry-dock periods, much of the maintenance for the diesel engines needs to be done based on running hours and will occur while the vessels are in service.
According to MGM, the LNG industry as a whole needs to appreciate these maintenance requirements and adjust vessel scheduling to allow for such maintenance and/or vendor attendances, to help ensure reliable vessel operations.
The company has scoped out the potential of moving up or downstream within the LNG sector. While there are no plans to enter downstream into terminals or LNG trading, MGM has been asked by customers to provide marine advice on LNG bunkering matters.
One new venture on the horizon involves entry into the FSRU sector. The first FSRU ordered by Maran Gas is due for delivery in Q1 2020. MGM sees this venture as serving the strategy already laid out by the oil majors, which are entering the power markets to create sustainable demand-driven growth for their gas.
MGM sees FSRUs as another facet of that strategy, by fast-tracking a floating terminal, rather than an onshore terminal, to connect to a growing power grid. “The demand is there, our aim is to serve it,” it says.
The MGM FSRU is being actively marketed and the company is entering into tenders as well as direct discussions. MGM has contracted experts with significant commercial and technical FSRU expertise to expedite its entry into this sector and to coordinate its rapidly growing internal knowledge base. MGM is confident that secure employment for its first FSRU will be sealed before the vessel is delivered in 2020. It believes its LNG expertise and experience will provide it with the credentials to compete with existing FSRU providers.
Crew training centre
The specialist requirements of the LNG shipping sector represent one of the major barriers to entry for newcomers. Having a dedicated LNG shipping training unit is an important differential in this regard. In 2001, ASGL established the Den Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd-accredited Delphic Maritime Training Centre (DMTC) as a shared department, providing training services to all Group companies, including MGM.
Among its portfolio of courses, DMTC offers certified SIGTTO training for MGM’s LNG officers and relevant shore staff. The Centre has a full bridge simulator, cargo simulator, engine room simulator and other computer-based training aids. DMTC is also an authorised training centre for electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS).
DMTC held 593 training sessions with 6,265 attendees in 2017 and, according to MGM, the dedicated training regime is paying dividends. It’s retention rate for seagoing and shore personnel is 97%; for the seagoing personnel these rates are 91% for officers and 99% for ratings.
DMTC and the provision of training are aspects of the company which are particularly close to the heart of the future leader of the group, Maria Angelicoussis. ”Although Maran Gas is the youngest of our three ASGL companies, it is the fastest growing,” she told LNG World Shipping.” She added: “It is also a shipping industry sector where top-quality operations and expertise are both greatly valued.”
“Early on at Maran Gas, we moved all our commercial and technical management in-house and, through our initial relationships, we quickly acquired solid trading experience. The combination of in-house expertise and strong relationships with our customers gives us a competitive advantage in the market today,” she said.
“The ‘secret to our success’ is our people, both ashore and at sea,” concluded Maria Angelicoussis. “With a state-of-the-art training centre and a retention rate of over 90%, we are investing in the future of our people to continue the growth and expansion of MGM.”