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Maersk orders 10 green mega-boxships

21 Feb 2011
Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding introducing the Triple-E concept in London on 21 February

Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding introducing the Triple-E concept in London on 21 February

Maersk Line has announced that it has signed a contract with Daewoo in Korea to build 10 container ships of 18,000 TEU capacity to a new environmentally-friendly design.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Maritime Engineering (DSME) will deliver the ships in 2013 and 2014. The contract includes an option for up to 20 more ships.

Maersk says that at 400m length oa and 59m beam, the ships are slightly larger than the Emma Maersk class, but will have a significantly greater capacity, thanks to a new hull form. The ships are claimed to offer a 50% saving in fuel consumption and emissions compared to most container ships, and even compared with the operator’s current ‘green’ flagship Emma Maersk there will be a 20% saving. Much of this will be due to a reduction in engine power, Maersk and its customers having accepted that a normal operating speed of 19 knots (with a 23 knot maximum) will be the optimum.

The new class of ships will be known as the ‘Triple-E’ (Economy of scale, Energy efficiency and Environmentally improved). The ‘environmentally improved’ tag comes from Maersk’s new ‘cradle to cradle passport’ scheme, that aims to make the ships 100% recyclable when they retire after 25+ years of service, with the component parts going to make a new ship.

Although Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding told The Motorship that the propulsion system arrangement was yet to be finalised, the currently-favoured arrangement is a twin-engine, twin-screw design based on the latest generation of long stroke, ultra-low-speed two-stroke diesels. Although a twin arrangement is generally considered less efficient that a single large engine, as in the Emma Maersk (E-class;, the use of a twin-screw installation will allow the use of large propellers without increasing draught, and result in a 4% greater efficiency than the conventional arrangement. Using two smaller engines, mounted well aft, also helps maximise cargo capacity. Installed power will be around 20% less than the E-class ships, while the Triple-E’s ‘twin skeg’ propulsion system will, if adopted, use two 9.8m diameter four-bladed propellers rather than the single 9.6m six-bladed screw of the E-class.

Maersk and Daewoo intend to employ all available energy-saving technologies in the engine room, including an advanced waste heat recovery system, and provision will be made for future environmental improvements, including space provided for fitting exhaust gas after-treatment systems at the time when Maersk feels they are proven and ready for use.

The hull will be more rounded and fuller-bodied than the standard V-shape used for container ships; Maersk believes that the resulting increased carrying capacity will more than compensate for the slight increase in resistance, particularly as the low engine revolutions provides a lower operational ‘sweet spot’, so the increased resistance less effect on overall fuel efficiency.

The extra width will allow 23 rows of containers, where the E-class carried 22; any more rows would impact on the container handling systems in existing ports. For a similar reason the length was limited to 400m, but Maersk has not ruled out even larger ships in the future should these prove feasible.

Maersk said that several shipbuilders were approached with a view to tendering for the contract. All of these were Korean – the company ruled out European yards, and does not feel that the Chinese yards are yet ready to build high-technology vessels like the Triple-E. Of those, Daewoo came out on top, being not only the most competitive, but also showed the best understanding of Maersk’s commitment and enthusiasm for the project.

Each vessel will cost around $190 million, and Maersk’s head of sustainability Søren Stig Nielsen said that about $30 million of that total represented investment in energy-saving technology, with the waste heat recovery system alone accounting for some $10 million. This investment, however, would have a short payback period, because customers were demanding ‘green’ ships they could use, to assist them in reaching their own environmental targets.

DSME president and CEO Nam Sang Tae added that only Maersk and Daewoo could deliver such a revolution which would open a new chapter in shipping and shipbuilding, changing the landscape of Asia-Europe trade once the first ship is delivered in 2013.

Maersk and Daewoo have worked together on various projects since 1996, including a current contract for 16 ‘Sammax’ container ships of 7,450 TEU each, the first of which is due to be delivered in April 2011.

Kolding says that Maersk is proud to be initiating the project to build the “world’s largest ships”. The design offers an expanded inside cavity giving it a capacity 16% greater than the E-class (equivalent to 2,500 containers), despite being only 4m longer and 3m wider. Unlike the typical hull which limits container capacity towards the bottom of the ‘V’ in the cargo holds, the more rounded hull of the Triple-E, and the extra row, provides substantially increased capacity.

Additional container space has been created moving the bridge and accommodation five bays forward and the engine room and chimney six bays back in what is called a ‘two-island’ design. With the more forward navigation bridge, containers can be stacked higher in front of the bridge without losing visibility. And about 750 more containers fill the space behind the bridge, both above and below deck, using the space created by the lower, and further aft, engine room.

Images for this article - click to enlarge

Maersk Line CEO Eivind Kolding introducing the Triple-E concept in London on 21 February The ‘two island’ design allows maximum container capacity Two propellers are better than one, says Maersk, when they are large and slow

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