Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Carriers are an integral part of the global energy sector. These specialized ships ensure the safe and efficient transport of LNG from production fields to consumption centers worldwide. Learn everything you need to know about LNG carriers, including the many varieties, safety features, market demand, and future prospects, from this in-depth study. 

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LNG Carriers, LNG vessels, or LNG tankers


LNG carriers, also known as LNG vessels or LNG tankers, are highly specialized ships designed for the transport of LNG. They are distinct from other vessels due to their capacity to maintain LNG in a liquid state at extremely low temperatures or under high pressures. As of late 2020, there were approximately 541 active LNG ships worldwide, showcasing their vital role in the global energy transportation network.

Understanding Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

Natural gas, when cooled to extremely low temperatures of around -162°C, transforms from a gaseous state to a liquid form, reducing to about 1/600th of its original volume. This process, known as liquefaction, enables the efficient storage and transportation of natural gas. The liquid state of LNG allows for safe storage and efficient shipment to regions far from the gas source, utilizing specially designed LNG carriers.

LNG Carriers: Structural Features and Design

The structural design of LNG carriers is unique and specifically tailored to handle the specific properties of LNG. These vessels typically measure approximately 300 meters in length, 43 meters in width, and have a draft of about 12 meters. LNG carriers often power their engines with steam turbines driven by boil-off-gas (BOG) from LNG, boiled liquid fuels such as oil, or a combination of these sources.

A key feature of LNG carriers is their heavily insulated, temperature-controlled tanks. These tanks, constructed from materials such as stainless steel and aluminum, can withstand the extremely low temperatures and high pressures associated with transporting LNG. The carriers also feature a double-hull structure that provides additional protection against potential leaks or breaches, thereby ensuring the safety of the ship, its crew, and the environment.

Different Types of LNG Carriers

LNG carriers can be broadly classified into two main types based on their containment systems:


  1. Membrane Type: These transports have cargo compartments that consist of many layers of thin metal and insulating materials, creating membrane-like structures. The membrane ensures excellent insulation and is less prone to leaks and spills, making these carriers highly efficient and safe.
  2. Moss Type: These carriers feature a Moss-type cargo containment system, involving spherical tanks supported by an internal framework. Membrane-type carriers are considered safer and more efficient than these carriers despite their ability to carry larger volumes of cargo.

Another common classification of LNG carriers is based on their cargo tanks, as per the International Maritime Organization (IMO) classification:

  1. Independent Tanks: These tanks are not part of the ship’s hull and do not contribute to hull strength. You can further subdivide independent tanks into Type A, Type B, and Type C, each with unique design characteristics and operational pressure limits.
  2. Integral Tanks: These tanks form a structural part of the ship’s hull. Membrane tanks are a common type of integral tanks, with two prevalent models, TGZ Mark III and GT 96.

Sizes of LNG Carriers

There is a wide range of LNG carrier sizes available to meet the requirements of different industries. The three main categories based on their capacity include:

  1. Small-Scale LNG Carriers: These ships, generally used for transporting LNG to smaller terminals or over short-haul routes, can carry a capacity of up to 20,000 cubic meters.
  2. Mid-Scale LNG Carriers: These ships have a capacity ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 cubic meters, making them suitable for medium-sized terminals or medium-haul routes.
  3. Large-Scale LNG Carriers: These ships, with a capacity exceeding 40,000 cubic meters, transport LNG to larger terminals or over long-haul routes.

Currently, Large-Scale LNG carriers are the most popular, with the vast majority of the world’s LNG fleet consisting of these large vessels.

Safety Measures on LNG Carriers

LNG carriers have a range of safety measures to manage potential hazards and guarantee the safety of both the ship and crew, as well as the environment. These measures encompass a double-hull structure, advanced cargo handling systems, inert gas systems, and fire-fighting systems. Additionally, the crew undergoes extensive training to manage emergency situations and carry out regular evacuation drills.

The use of a “inert gas” system, which replaces the oxygen in the tanks and surrounding regions with an inert gas like as nitrogen, is one example of a specific safety feature that can prevent explosions caused by the escape of combustible gas. The ship has state-of-the-art firefighting technologies, such as foam and water spray systems, to quickly extinguish any blazes that may break out.

Market Demand for LNG Carriers

Global demand for natural gas closely ties to the demand for LNG carriers. The increasing switch to cleaner energy sources worldwide is predicted to further boost the need for LNG carriers.

Japan, China, and South Korea are the world’s largest importers of liquefied natural gas (LNG), making the Asia-Pacific area the largest market for LNG transportation. However, Europe and North America are also experiencing increases in demand for LNG. As more nations adopt natural gas as their primary energy source, the demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers is predicted to increase.

Furthermore, LNG’s rising popularity as a maritime fuel is anticipated to spur demand for LNG carriers. The use of LNG as a marine fuel is growing in popularity as countries strive to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions and maritime rules get harsher. There will be a greater need for LNG carriers as the number of LNG-powered ships grows.

Regulatory and Compliance Requirements for LNG Carriers


LNG carriers must comply with a host of regulatory and compliance requirements set by international, regional, and national bodies. These requirements ensure the safety and security of the ship, its crew, and the environment. Some of the most important conventions, codes, and regulations that apply to LNG carriers are the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Circulars, IGC Code, MARPOL, and the SOLAS.

Safety management systems and adherence to rules concerning the handling and transportation of hazardous chemicals are additional requirements for LNG carriers.

The Future of LNG Transportation

In the future of LNG transportation, we anticipate that we will see larger LNG carriers with the capacity to transport even more LNG. Additionally, new technology will further improve the safety and efficiency of LNG transportation. Rising demand will necessitate more efficient and secure means of transporting LNG. When it comes to supplying the energy demands of nations, LNG ships will be indispensable.

Related FAQs

Liquified natural gas (LNG) carriers are specially designed vessels that can transport LNG in a liquid condition at either low temperatures or high pressures.

The two main types of LNG carriers are Membrane type and Moss type. These classifications are based on the type of cargo containment systems used in the carriers.

There are three different sizes of LNG carriers, the smallest of which can carry up to 20,000 cubic meters, the next largest between 20,000 and 40,000, and the largest of which can carry more than 40,000.

Many different types of safety features, such as double-hull construction, cutting-edge cargo handling systems, inert gas systems, and fire-fighting systems, are used on LNG carriers. Along with frequent evacuation drills, the team receives thorough emergency preparedness training.

Financing the construction and operation of LNG carriers can be done in a number of ways, including through self-financing, bank or other financial institution funding, or by long-term charter agreements with LNG producers or customers.

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