Will CMA CGM’s new gas-fuelled container ships go all the way?

Following yesterday’s announcement that the new 22,000 teu boxhips will be running on LNG, comes the news that the series of nine ships to be built at three Chinese yards (Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group), Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding, and China Shipbuilding Trading Co (CSTC) are to be built under BV Classification.

Philippe Donche-Gay, President, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore, commenting today, said: “This is a breakthrough order for gas fuelled shipping – both in scale and in the use of a membrane containment system. Bureau Veritas has been supporting the project throughout, providing assistance to ensure the requirements for the safe use of LNG are addressed.”

The new ships will have a bunker capacity close to 18,000m3 and this represents a significantly higher volume than has been required in the LNG fuelled ship market. Bureau Veritas has investigated the feasibility of the design together with shipbuilding group China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and GTT, the containment system designer.

The very high gas tank capacity suggests that the ships will be carrying sufficient fuel for a round trip between Europe and the Far East and so avoiding the need to refuel en route. That could be a sensible strategy since most LNG bunkering capacity is currently being established in Europe. If a single tank is planned, the question of sloshing could be an issue that will need to be considered.

What has not so far been disclosed is the choice of engines for the ships. Since the ships will be built at CSSC yards it would be reasonable to think that the engines may be contracted to WinGD. That could point to the ships providing an initial reference to the X92DF engines which have been designed with ultra large container ships in mind. CMA CGM have said that they intend to run the ship on LNG but a dual-fuel engine would also allow for some oil fuel to be carried for use when LNG is not available for any reason.