DISCOVER Magazine #7

TSHD Samuel De Champlain

Published in category: Dredging & Marine Contracting

To be converted to LNG in a European first

Jean_Pierre_Guellec_CEO_GIE_Dragager_Ports Jean-Pierre Guellec
GIE Dragages-Ports
Hubert_Louys_Project_Manager_GIE_Dragages_Ports Hubert Louys
Project Manager
GIE Dragages-Ports

This summer saw another milestone in the drive towards cleaner shipping in European waters. In July, GIE Dragages-Ports awarded the contract for the retrofit of the Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger Samuel de Champlain with dual-fuel engines and the associated systems that will make it capable of being powered using LNG. The winner of the tender process was Damen Shiprepair & Conversion with the work to take place at either Damen Shiprepair Brest or Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque. This will be the first time in Europe that a dredger has been retrofitted with LNG capability, and the award is part of an EU-supported initiative to promote LNG propulsion in short sea -vessels operating along the European Atlantic coast.

GIE Dragages-Ports is an economic interest group created in 1979 to optimise the costs of dredging at six key ports serving the French Atlantic coast plus Marseille in the Mediterranean. It is 50% owned by the French State with the remaining 50% split between the seven Grands Ports Maritimes of Dunkerque, Le Havre, Rouen, Nantes-Saint-Nazaire, La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Marseille. Headquartered in Rouen, it owns and manages a fleet of seven dredgers ranging in size from the 52-metres, 450m³ La Maqueline up to the 117 metre, 8500m³ Samuel de Champlain. Each port charters the dredgers from GIE Dragages-Ports according to its needs and is responsible for operating them and supplying its own crew.

The project

Under the contract, Damen is delivering a turnkey package that includes engineering, procurement and support. This includes the change of engines, the installation of inboard LNG storage facilities, and maintenance support for eight years. The Samuel de Champlain was built in 2002 and is the largest vessel in the GIE Dragages-Ports fleet. Based in the Grand Maritime Port of Nantes-Saint-Nazaire, she divides her time between the Loire and Seine estuaries. Her current propulsion system is diesel-electric, burning relatively clean MGO, and the retrofit will give her dual-fuel MGO/LNG operability.

With the Samuel de Champlain midway through her life and in need of new engines, Jean-Pierre Guellec and his team at GIE Dragages-Ports saw an opportunity. “With the vessel needing major work anyway, it makes sense for us to do everything we can to cut operating costs and improve its environmental profile,” said Jean-Pierre Guellec. “If at the same time we set a positive example to the maritime sector by becoming the first operator in France of an LNG-powered vessel, aside from LNG carriers, that is an added bonus.”


With the conversion representing a substantial investment for a company of its size, they investigated what external support might be available for an environmental project of this kind. The search brought it to the European Commission’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) and its Connecting Europe Facility programme.

S/F SamueLNG for a Blue Atlantic Arch

Discussions with the INEA resulted in the creation of the ‘S/F SamueLNG for a Blue Atlantic Arch’ project. For this, GIE Dragages-Ports formed a 12-member Franco-Spanish consortium that includes port authorities, engineering consultants, energy suppliers and a short sea shipping operator. With the conversion of the Samuel de Champlain as its centrepiece, the project has become a wider programme that aims to promote the use of LNG by small-scale vessels active on the Atlantic coasts of Spain and France and up into the English Channe. The conversion of the Samuel de Champlain will demonstrate the feasibility of using LNG as a fuel on smaller vessels. Other activities already underway include studies on LNG bunkering and on the environmental impact of the conversion at a number of the participating port authorities, and the training of harbour personnel. With the programme agreed, INEA is suppling 50% of the €20 million budget, making it financially viable for GIE Dragages-Ports.


France is not as advanced as some countries in its exploration of the potential of LNG for maritime propulsion with no bunkering vessels currently in operation, and dredgers are ideal vessels for demonstrating the advantages of dual-fuel propulsion. “The power requirements of dredgers vary greatly as they go about their operations,” explained Hubert Louys, Project Manager at GIE Dragages-Ports. “They range from steady steaming to and from the site of operations to sudden manoeuvring and periods when they make require lots of power as they push into strong currents while at the same time operating their dredging pumps and other equipment. However, we are optimistic that the converted Samuel de Champlain will be able to operate close to 100% on LNG, even in such conditions, with the MGO option available for extreme situations.”

Operating on LNG will allow GIE Dragages-Ports to fulfil its mission of optimising costs via lower fuel bills and less engine maintenance, and at the same time delivering greatly reduced emissions of CO2, NOx and particulate matter above and beyond current standards, a responsibility that GIE Dragages-Ports takes very seriously.

The works

The conversion work involves modifications to the internal structure to allow the installation of two, Type C LNG tanks on the hopper deck. Thereafter the three existing diesel engines, two main and one auxiliary, will be replaced with three dual-fuel engines. At the same time, the electrical distribution, command & control and security systems will all be upgraded. The machinery spaces, the cooling systems and various piping will also require extensive modifications. In the fourth quarter of 2017 studies are underway and equipment under order. The conversion itself is scheduled for the autumn of 2018 at either Damen Shiprepair Brest or Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque.

Conversion work_for_TSHD_Samuel_de_Champlain

“We are already looking ahead to our next project in cooperation with the Grand Port Maritime of Bordeaux,” concludes Jean-Pierre Guellec. “We have a tender now out for the replacement of the grab dredger La Maqueline in 2019. The new vessel will use water injection equipment to fluidise the solid sediment layer into a density current, thereby allowing the material to flow out of the port basin with the current. This new acquisition will also be dual-fuel powered, using LNG and MGO.”

For more information on the S/F SamueLNG for a Blue Atlantic Arch project, visit

back to top