Golar LNG vessels carry out mystery STS cargo transfer

An LNG cargo ship-to-ship (STS) transfer has been completed between two vessels controlled by Golar LNG, sparking talk as to the reasons for the operation.

A part cargo, believed to be of slightly less than 100,000 cbm, was transferred from three tanks of the 160,000-cbm Golar Ice (built 2015) into sistership Golar Crystal (built 2014).

The operation, which took place within port limits off Gibraltar while both ships were at anchor, is understood to have taken around five days and was completed on 17 June.

Brokers say the Golar Ice was carrying a cargo for trader Trafigura at the time of the transfer.

Ship-tracking data shows the vessel loaded a cargo at Ras Laffan in Qatar in early May.

The ship appeared to be heading for Brazil but changed course for Gibraltar.

The Golar Crystal is shown due to arrive off Rio de Janeiro on 3 July.

Golar chief executive Oscar Spieler says this week that he prefers not to comment on the operations, to respect the confidentiality of the ship’s charterer.

Speculation on the reasons for the transfer were circulating around the industry this week.

Some sources following the ships indicate that the Golar Ice had compatibility issues with the terminal where its cargo was to be discharged.

But others discounted this, pointing out that both LNG carriers are traded in the Cool Pool as sisterships, and that an equipment failure prompted the cargo transfer.

They describe the STS as a “distressed cargo transfer” rather than an emergency operation.

STS transfers are becoming more common in the LNG sector but are still used much more rarely than in oil transport.

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