MSC’s Next ULCV Moved from Building Dock as Ship Acquisitions Continue
Despite the current slowing in container shipment volumes, MSC is pushing forward with its expansion as new construction proceeds and the company continues to buy existing containerships. While details for the deployment of the company’s new ultra-large containerships have not yet been announced, MSC is poised to go up against others including Hapag-Lloyd and OOCL which are also preparing to introduce the new generation of ultra-large container vessels (ULCV).
China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding floated out on December 27 the third new ultra-large being built for MSC at its Changxing shipyard. The shipyard floated the first of the new giants being built for MSC last August. Named MSC Tessa that vessel is nearing completion at the shipyard. Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group in November also floated two more of the MSC ULCVs being built as a part of a class of six ships.
The latest vessel in the class, the MSC Gemma, was floated yesterday with Hudong-Zhonghua highlighting the tight construction schedule and challenges of building these large vessels. The shipyard reports that the production cycle in the dock is “very tight.” They said the construction team had to carry out detailed planning for the hoisting of the sections, optimized the operations at the yard, improve the utilization rate of the gantry crane, and further shortened the hoisting cycle for the main hull.
Part of a class of six ships, each is expected to be more than 240,000 dwt
Each of these new ships when completed is expected to be more than 240,000 dwt with a record 24,116 TEU capacity. The design for the class was independently developed by the Chinese shipyard and is being classed by DNV. The total length of the ship is 1,312 feet, the molded width is 201 feet, and the molded depth is nearly 109 feet. The shipyard highlights that the deck area is equivalent to nearly four standard football fields and the maximum stacking height for the containers is 25 layers, which is equivalent to the height of a 22-story building.
The first of the new MSC vessels, MSC Tessa, is reportedly due to enter service in February according to Alphaliner, delayed from an anticipated start in November 2022. While MSC with its participation in the 2M alliance is likely the first to launch the new class, the competing associations of carriers are also set to bring out new giants. THE Alliance recently highlighted that it will also deploy new ultra-large vessels to its Asia and North Europe trade. They said, “a modern series of fuel-efficient 23,500+ TEU vessels will replace smaller vessels.” The ships will be Hapag-Lloyd’s new class of ULCVs building in South Korea, which are expected to start delivering in April 2023. The third industry group, Ocean Alliance, will also start deploying ULCVs next year as OOCL begins taking delivery of its new giants, the first of which was floated in November at China’s NACKS shipyard.
The new ships will continue MSC’s dramatic increase in capacity developed over the last two years. After passing Maersk to become the largest carrier at the beginning of 2022 with a capacity of nearly 4.3 million TEU, MSC has widened the lead to more than 350,000 TEU or a total fleet wide capacity of nearly 4.6 million TEU according to Alphaliner. Driven initially by low asset values and rising charter rates, Alphaliner calculates that MSC shifted its strategy moving aggressively starting in 2020 to acquire secondhand vessels.
Over the past two and a half years, Alphaliner calculates MSC has acquired 263 vessels, including 13 in the past two months. The acquired capacity is more than 1 million TEU, which on a standalone basis would equal the eighth largest carrier. The acquired capacity is nearly a quarter of MSC’s total capacity and half the line’s total owned fleet according to Alphaliner’s numbers.