Containership Orders at Record Levels with New Order Linked to MSC
After a record year for containership construction orders, 2022 is starting strong with China reporting a first large order. The contract reported by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), also is the latest convergence of two trends in shipbuilding, containerships and LNG-fueled ships.
DSIC reported that it has entered into a construction contract for six dual-fuel containerships with “a well-known European shipowner.” The order is being linked to Mediterranean Shipping Company, which was moving aggressively to grow its operations in 2021, resulting in MSC gaining the title of the world’s largest containership carrier based on capacity at the end of 2021. Alphaliner is reported MSC’s orderbook at 72 vessels with a total capacity of 1.1 million TEU.
The six new ships ordered at DISC will each have a capacity of 16,000 and be built at the shipyard in Tianjin. Each of the vessels will be 1,200 feet long with a beam of 167 feet. According to DSIC they will be outfitted with WinGD dual-fuel main engine and equipped with the latest iCER-Diesel system, which can significantly reduce the ship's greenhouse gas and nitrogen oxide emissions and improve the combustion efficiency of the main engine. At the same time, the ships will also be equipped with a shaft generator and use an air-lubricated drag reduction system, which can significantly improve the overall performance.
Working with the shipowner, the yard reports that it has also “jointly determined the ammonia fuel reserve plan.” The design has been future-proofed with the shipyard saying these vessels could potentially become the world's first ultra-large container ships to convert to ammonia in the future. DSIC believes that this order also provides a basis for the subsequent development of the dual-fuel containership market.
Last year saw an increasing number of containerships ordered to operate with dual-fuel systems as the overall orderbook rose to record highs. VesselsValue reports that there was a quadrupling of vessel orders from 2020 to 2021. In December 2021, they highlighted that 555 containerships had been ordered.
“In 2021, the number of container vessels ordered surpassed 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined,” reported VesselsValue. They believed it was “a consequence of owners striving to match the last year's unprecedented box demand.”
Clarkson Research calculated that a total of 4.2 million TEU of capacity was ordered in 2021. That would bring the total orderbook for containerships to a total of 5.7 million TEU, which represents a quarter of the total containership capacity. Overall. Clarkson reported that nearly a third of all ship orders in 2021 were for LNG-fueled vessels, with that strong interest carrying over into the containership sector.
Despite the strong orders few analysts foresee opportunities for overcapacity as the tonnage is not due to reach the market for at least two to three years. Some carriers, such as Maersk also reported that its large containership order was part of a fleet replacement program and their efforts beginning the migration toward methanol and alternative fuels.