P&O Adapts Module Carriers to Serve as Shallow-Draft Container Feeders

Topaz Lena
The converted module carrier Topaz Lena in Hamburg, 2022 (Wolfgang Fricke / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Aug 25, 2022 10:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

P&O's logistics and feedering branch is opening up a new specialty business in the Red Sea, running small "micro feeder" vessels back and forth between Port Sudan and Port of Jeddah. The house-forward, OSV-sized vessels were built for a shallow-draft application, and they happen to be perfect for reaching underutilized parts of a seaport.

P&O's extra-small feeders are handy for accessing port areas that cannot be reached by conventional container ships, and this allows them to bypass congestion, the line says. Like converting bulkers to carry boxes, it is a unique adaptation to the pressures of the modern containerized supply chain. 

The first test vessel was the Topaz Lena, a heavy load carrier built in 2018. She was one of 17 built for Topaz - now part of P&O - to carry process modules for the Tengiz oil field on the Caspian Sea. At 400 feet in length and 2,600 dwt, she is small for a feeder ship, but her "micro" fully laden draft of less than 12 feet gives her exceptional access to shallow water quaysides.

In trials, P&O found that it could deliver much faster turnaround times by using Topaz Lena to bypass congested terminals, speeding up a port call by up to 70-80 percent when compared to a conventional feeder. The line has also modified a sister ship, Topaz Volga, to serve on the same route. 

"Seeing such niche feeders operating successfully forms a blueprint for further expansion with new and existing clients," said Martin Helweg, the CEO of P&O Maritime Logistics. 

P&O is modifying another two vessels and says that it could put as many as 10 in service upon request. 

Top image: The converted module carrier Topaz Lena in Hamburg, 2022 (Wolfgang Fricke / CC BY SA 3.0)