CMA CGM to Expand US Pacific Route with First LNG-Fuel Boxships

CMA CGM LGN containership on Pacific
CMA CGM introdcued its first ultra large LNG-fueled containerships in 2020 (CMA CGM)

Published Feb 26, 2021 8:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

CMA CGM Group announced that it plans to deploy the first LNG-powered large containerships on its Pacific routes starting later this year. The move is part of the company’s efforts to move to carbon neutrality by deploying a large fleet of LNG-powered vessels.

The first of these new vessels will be delivered in October 2021, and all ships will be fully operational by the end of 2022. The six 15,000-TEU vessels will be deployed on CMA CGM’s Pearl River Express (PRX) line, which sails from China to the Port of Los Angeles. 

“The deployment of six LNG-powered containerships of 15,000-TEU will go along with the development of the US economy in a sustainable manner,” said Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group. “It is a strong signal in favor of the environment. The United States is strategic for the economic exchanges and for CMA CGM: 2021 will definitely be marked by the strengthening of the ties that have already united us for a long time. We deeply believe in the strengths of the American economy and we’re eager to foster its responsible growth.”

CMA CGM said that the move was a means of sharing its energy transition for shipping and providing its customers with effective solutions with these six 15,000-TEU LNG-powered vessels. American customers will be able to choose to transport their goods using LNG, realizing the benefits of a technology that reduces emissions. 

The line has made a strong commitment to LNG as its near-term fuel solution. The group is currently operating 12 LNG-powered containerships. They plan to grow their LGN fleet to 32 containerships of various sizes by 2022. 

In November 2017, CMA CGM ordered nine 23,000 TEU vessels with an LNG power supply, a first in the history of the shipping industry for vessels of this size. These vessels began to enter service in 2020 and are being deployed on the route between Asia and Northern Europe.

Speaking at the opening session of the TPM conference on trans-Pacific and global container shipping and logistics, Saadé said that the group sees LNG as the best available option at this time to move towards the goal of carbon-neutral operations by 2050. "What is important is what we are doing now to protect the environment," Saadé said. "Maybe LNG is not the technology of the future. Maybe there will technologies that are far better than LNG. Today, what is important is not so much to criticize LNG but to take action."

CMA CGM also continues to pursue longer-term options. Among them are methanol and hydrogen which Saade says might be even more environmentally friendly, but until those fuel sources are proven he is comfortable pursuing the strategy of building an LNG fleet.