CMA CGM Orders Its First Methanol Conversion as Focus Shifts to Biofuels

CMA CGM containership
CMA CGM will undertake its first methanol refit in 2025 (file photo)

Published Jan 31, 2024 3:34 PM by The Maritime Executive


CMA CGM is joining the growing list of shipowners moving to test converting in-service vessels to operate on methanol. China State Shipbuilding Corporation is reporting a contract signing yesterday in China for the first conversion project for the French shipping company which so far has mostly invested in LNG-fueled ships. 

Few details were released on the specifics of the project but it appears CMA CGM will be testing the conversion with one or two 9,300 TEU ships built nearly a decade ago. Chinese media reports on the contract signing are saying the first vessel conversion will take place in mid-2025 requiring approximately three months. If successful, reports are saving an entire class of six to 10 ships could be converted. 

CMA CGM follows the path of other major shipowners which are also looking at the conversion to methanol-fueled propulsion. Maersk signed a similar conversion order last October which is expected to start later this year. One of the company’s 15,000 TEU vessels, Maersk Halifax, reportedly will be the first to be retrofitted with the company saying it was exploring converting additional vessels in the class which was built between 2017 and 2019 when the vessel’s special survey is due.

Several other shipowners have also reported conversion projects. Included in the container segment is COSCO while Hapag-Lloyd is reported to be working with Seaspan and MAN on a conversion project. Other segments have also reported exploring the process for conversion, including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings which started a project with MAN. Norwegian is the only one of the large cruise lines that decided to forego LNG and proceed directly to methanol.

CMA CGM has been investing heavily in LNG launching the first large LNG-fueled containerships. The company continues to order additional dual-fuel LNG vessels highlighting an investment of close to $15 billion in decarbonizing its fleet. The company recently reported that it has 35 dual-fuel LNG-powered containerships and will have almost 120 vessels capable of being powered by decarbonized fuels by 2028.

Most of the focus has been on LNG including a report that they backtracked on a plan for methanol instead commencing a newbuild to be powered by LNG. CMA CGM is reported to have placed its first order for methanol-fueled vessels in April 2023 for a total of 12 vessels with a capacity of 15,000 TEU to be built by Dalian Shipbuilding and Jiangnan Shipyard. The company also has a dozen ships on order in Korea to be built by Hyundai Samho which will be dual-fuel methanol ships. CMA CGM is reported to be focused on ships that will be biomethane and e-methane ready.

Beihai Shipbuilding highlighted its long relationship with CMA CGM. Starting in 2018, the Chinese shipyard has carried out conversions for the French company including lengthening vessels, installing hybrid scrubbers and ballast water treatment systems, and propulsion projects. The yard also received an order in 2021 to build ten 5,500 TEU containerships for CMA CGM.