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LNG-powered ship on St. Lawrence Seaway signals new wave

The 440-foot-long tanker Damia Desgagnes is seen making her way up the St. Lawrence River as she passes the Clayton Yacht Club on Friday. Owned by Quebec-based Groupe Desgagnes, it is believed to have been the first LNG-powered vessel to transit the St. Lawrence Seaway. (Provided photo — Kara Dry, Watertown Daily Times)

The Ramelia, a nearly 500-foot ship in brilliant red and white, turned some heads this month when it headed west on the St. Lawrence Seaway, toward Lake Ontario. Observant ship watchers noticed two large tanks on its deck, with the letters LNG painted on them.

LNG — liquefied natural gas — is making major inroads for ocean-going vessels, but a much smaller one for those on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes.

Ramelia, homeported in Sweden, was launched in 2019 and was making its maiden voyage on the Seaway. It’s more environmentally friendly than the traditional ships on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, many which burn “bunker” fuel oil. Bunker oil, distilled from crude oil, can be broken down into different categories. A 2018 report published by the Yale School of Environment described the fuel as being made “from the dregs of the refining process. It’s also loaded with sulfur — the chemical that, when burned, produces noxious gases and fine particles that can harm human health and the environment, especially along highly trafficked areas.”

Seeing a LNG-powered ship cruising on the Seaway and Great Lakes remains a rarity. They are more common in European countries, especially Norway and Sweden.

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