Chinese Car Company BYD Launches First Car Carrier for European Exports

Chinese car carrier
Chinese built car carrier was chartered to emerging EV manufacturer BYD (CIMC)

Published Jan 11, 2024 5:59 PM by The Maritime Executive


An LNG-fueled car carrier which is billed as China’s first built specifically for the export of domestically made cars set sail yesterday for Europe. Part of China’s rapid ascendancy toward leading the global car market the vessel is also the first fully chartered to BYD, an equally quickly emerging car manufacturer.

Started in 1995 as a battery company, BYD Auto was launched in 2003 and focuses entirely on plugins and hybrid vehicles. The company’s cars, while not yet available in the United States, have already as of the fourth quarter of 2023 become the fastest-selling EV brand. The company reported that it surpassed Tesla in sales late in 2023 while also calling itself China’s best-selling car brand. It started with smaller, less expensive models and recently has unveiled a sub-brand called Yangwang that is focusing on the luxury end of the market, introducing a luxury sedan while teasing reports of a sport utility vehicle due later this year.

CIMC Raffles delivered the car carrier at the end of 2023 which was built at its yard in Yantai. Known as the BYD Explorer No. 1, the vessel is operated by Zodiac Maritime. Registered in Liberia, it is 656 feet (200 meters) in length and 19,800 dwt. It has space for 7,000 vehicles with some reports in China saying it was specially adapted to transport EVs, although no details were provided. 

The vessel operates at 19 knots and is outfitted with two large LNG tanks giving it a maximum cruising range of 15,800 miles. It was classed by DNV. They are saying that the design adopts hydrodynamics and aerodynamics to optimize the hull lines and includes a variety of energy-saving devices.


BYD's first dedicated car carrier is setting sail for Europe as it expands exports (CIMC)


BYD is not providing extensive details on its plans but has called the vessel the first in its fleet. Earlier reports in China said there will be at least one sister ship and possibly a firm order for a total of four ships. It is believed the partnership with Zodiac might also have options for two additional vessels.

CIMC reports after delivery the vessel arrived at the Yanti Port on January 9 and began loading at the Ro-Ro terminal. It departed yesterday and is now sailing to the Shenzhen Xiaomo Port to load trucks before heading to Europe. They are not confirming the destination port. 

The introduction of the vessel is part of China’s efforts to catch up with German and Japanese automakers and continue the rapid emergence of its car manufacturing industry. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported this week that China’s auto exports grew 63 percent in 2023 surpassing 4.1 million cars. While Japan has not yet released its year-end numbers, earlier reports indicate that China may have already exceeded Japan in auto exports. Currently, about one-quarter of China’s exports are EVs. 

BYD reported total sales exceeding three million EVs in 2023 putting it among the top 10 globally. December sales were up 45 percent the company reported to a total of over 341,000 units. Exports were reported up 334 percent in 2023 to 242,765 units with the company saying it is reaching across over 70 countries on six continents.

BYD joins other major Chinese car manufacturers who have been moving to charter vessels and expanding their exports. China Daily reports the U.S. joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile is also beginning its first exports to Mexico this month with an initial shipment of 500 compact SUVs. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers highlights exports by SAIC, Chery, Changan, and Great Wall Motors.