La Spezia - It took five hours yesterday to complete the first refueling of LNG in Italy on the quay, from ship to ship. La Spezia, the only national port to make the operation possible, will be replicated in three weeks. Always with "Costa Smeralda", the flagship of the Genoese company, which points its bow on the Gulf of Poets every Sunday until mid-November. But the operation looks above all to the future, to anticipate it, with Italy having to adapt to the European directives in terms of emissions "and 3% is produced precisely by cruise ships" explains the vessel captain Giovanni Stella, at the helm of the Port Authority of La Spezia.
By 2025, an infrastructural network must be available for navigation to supply LNG units via barges. Ships powered by liquid natural gas will increase from the current 400 to over 1,000 expected in 2030. Ensuring bunkering is therefore crucial for ports that aspire to become first-rate ports, especially for giants of the sea fueled with low-impact fuels. La Spezia has been one of the three ports in the Mediterranean since yesterday, after Barcelona and Marseille, to allow the bunkering of LNG directly on the quay. Through a LNG carrier that arrived directly from the port of Rotterdam: "La Spezia becomes a privileged port of call for LNG ships, a fundamental approach for planning the cruises of the future" says Stella.
The Coast Guard yesterday monitored the refueling operations and supervised the buffer zone that was created in the port: navigation was prohibited for a radius of one hundred meters, precisely to avoid that even an anomalous movement of the sea could compromise the refueling. But the La Spezia Coast Guard led the direction of a technical panel that met for 22 months to develop an articulated draft regulation, implemented for the first time with the operation authorized yesterday. Improvements and possible observations "will be considered by the working group as early as this week, to perfect the regulation which will come into force by November".An absolute first for Italy also in this case. In addition to the harbor master's office, the working group also involved ARPAL, ASL, the Municipality, the Port Network Authority of the Eastern Ligurian Sea and the Carnival group. The result was a regulation of 20 pages and four annexes, in which the general rules for carrying out bunkering and emergency procedures are established: "The risk? Close to zero - replied Stella, after the controversy that in recent days had come from environmental associations due to the proximity of the point where the operation takes place, Garibaldi Ovest pier, to the city. - LNG is confused with Gpl: LNG has such volatility that it is unlikely that a trigger will be created. Furthermore, the overall risk has been validated by two recognized organizations. No intention - he then clarified - to involve the Panigaglia regasification plant at the moment. The barges are considered the safest system ever for these operations". Every single component has been certified and checked, from the hoses to the protective devices for the approximately 20 employees involved. Yesterday morning Smeralda was joined by the Dutch LNG carrier around 8 and 1,200 m / tons of gas were then poured into the belly of the "Smeralda" from 11 to 16.
This is not the full load which for the ship reaches 3,500. Between the Shell barge (with which Carnival has a commercial agreement) and the ship, two pontoons have been placed, arrived from Marseille, which will remain in La Spezia for the next operation. No other approach is possible on the quay during the operation, just as the balconies on the affected side are closed as a precaution. On the other hand, passengers are allowed to get on and off. Yesterday's flat sea was also the ideal condition, as foreseen in the regulation itself. Commander Stella does not hide the satisfaction: "I carried on what had been started by those who preceded me, but accelerated. On May 3, after Barcelona, Marseille also started bunkering. I understood that there was no other time to waste for La Spezia."