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Carriers consider ordering mega containerships

Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, Yang Ming and COSCO all are said to be weighing new ship orders.

   The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Evergreen Marine and Hapag-Lloyd both are planning to order mega containerships.
   The story, which did not identify the sources, said the two companies “have put in separate requests to Asian yards for the construction of more than a dozen mega container ships that would have a combined value of about $2.2 billion.” It also said Yang Ming and COSCO “are also in the market for new ships but no orders are imminent.”
   Evergreen and COSCO, along with COSCO affiliate OOCL and CMA CGM, are all members of the Ocean Alliance; Hapag-Lloyd, Yang Ming and Ocean Network Express are members of THE Alliance.
   The Danish website ShippingWatch said it had “market sources confirm Hapag-Lloyd’s interest in mega ships.”
   In response to queries from American Shipper seeking confirmation, both companies only provided general statements about their ship acquisition plans.
   Evergreen provided the following statement: To provide efficient marine transportation service and enhance operating competitiveness, Evergreen Line continues monitoring market development and customer demand, adopts advanced shipbuilding technologies to introduce the most suitable vessel types in line with the line’s stringent eco-friendly criteria for fleet renewal. After the negotiations with tonnage suppliers are completed, information about our newbuilding programs or charter parties will be announced as required by authorities concerned.”
   Hapag-Lloyd told American Shipper, We regularly review the capacity of our fleet, and we are naturally also in constant contact with potential financiers and shipyards. At the same time, we also very closely examine whether medium-term capacity adjustments make economic sense. However, we do not plan to order any ships shortly. In that context, it does not make sense to speculate at this time about possible ship classes or propulsion technologies.”
   Hapag-Lloyd added very large containerships to it fleet with its acquisition of United Arab Shipping Co. in 2017, adding half a dozen ships with 19,870-TEU capacity and 11 ships with 14,993-TEU capacity, according to the company’s website.

   In its annual report for last year, Hapag-Lloyd noted it had no orders for new ships and that it had a very young and efficient fleet. As a result, it will not be necessary to invest in new ship systems in the short term. The existing fleet and cooperation with the partners in THE Alliance will make it possible to utilize the short-term expansion opportunities resulting from market growth and to realize economies of scale in ship operations.
   The company added, However, in order to remain competitive in the medium term, the executive board of Hapag-Lloyd AG believes that the group will invest in new ship systems again at the appropriate time.
   As to what kind of ships Hapag-Lloyd might order in the future,  some insight may be gleaned from an article that appeared in the company’s in-house Navigator newsletter.
   It said the largest containership currently operating is the 21,413- TEU OOCL Hong Kong, that CMA CGM plans to put new 23,000- TEU ships to sea this year and  COSCO has commissioned a feasibility study for a 25,000-TEU ship.
   Richard von Berlepsch, the managing director of fleet management at Hapag-Lloyd, noted in the article that such ultra-large containerships have similar crew sizes to smaller vessels and a lower fuel consumption per TEU.
   However, the article said, Ships with capacities of up to 25,000 TEU could only be deployed on the Far East-Europe trade and would spend more time in port, where they don’t earn money for their owners.
   And it noted such large ships can be a burden to freight forwarders who fear that they will have to build big warehouses if the mega ships unload 25,000 boxes in one fell swoop.

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Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.