Neo-Panamax series for South American trade

'Valparaiso Express' on her first passage through the expanded Panama Canal
'Valparaiso Express' on her first passage through the expanded Panama Canal
Lashing bridges on the 'Valparaiso Express' encompass three tiers of containers
Lashing bridges on the 'Valparaiso Express' encompass three tiers of containers
Hapag-Lloyd’s new breed of 10,593 TEU neo-Panamax boxship is pivotal to the restructure of its northwest Europe/South America east coast service (picture courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd)
Hapag-Lloyd’s new breed of 10,593 TEU neo-Panamax boxship is pivotal to the restructure of its northwest Europe/South America east coast service (picture courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd)

Hapag-Lloyd has invested in a new generation of boxships on the strength of new opportunities offered by the enlargement of the Panama Canal and prospects of long-term growth in Latin American economies. David Tinsley reports

Opening a new chapter in the development of the Hapag-Lloyd fleet, a series of containerships optimised for transits through the expanded Panama Canal has made its debut in the liner trade between Europe and South America. At 10,593 TEU capacity, the Valparaiso Express class encapsulates a considerable advance in cargo intake relative to the earlier Panamax breed, and is further distinguished by its capability for a high reefer payload, and by a raft of measures aimed at meeting raised efficiency and environmental goals.

Construction has been undertaken by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries at Yeongam, on the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula. Four of the five newbuilds were handed over between November 2016 and February this year as the Valparaiso Express, Callao Express, Cartagena Express and Guayaquil Express, and immediately deployed in Hapag-Lloyd’s revised Europe/South America west coast service. The fifth ship in the series, Santos Express, is due for completion and assignment by the end of this month (April) to the Europe/South America east coast trade.

The decision to formally name the first of Hapag-Lloyd’s neo-Panamax generation in Valparaiso, rather than at the South Korean yard of construction or in the home port of Hamburg, underscored the commitment to the South American business and the Chilean stake in Germany’s pre-eminent liner organisation.

The ceremony was performed during the ship’s inaugural December call at the Terminal Pacifico Sur (TPS) by Mrs Rozio Gonzalez, wife of Andronico Luksic, chairman of the Quinenco Group. Ranking as one of the largest and most diversified business conglomerates in Chile, Quinenco is the biggest shareholder in Compania Sud-Americana de Vapores (CSAV), one of the three controlling interests in Hapag-Lloyd. CSAV became a core shareholder in the German line as a consequence of the 2014 merger of its container business with Hapag-Lloyd.


The Valparaiso Express type has a breadth of 48m and length of 333m, and offers a container intake more than twice that of the largest boxships able to use the Panama Canal before last year’s opening of the new locks. Eight cargo holds accommodate nine tiers of containers, and a further nine tiers of boxes are carried on deck, in maximum rows of 19 units.

Efficiency gains result not only from the economies of scale but also from a bespoke hull form in conjunction with the latest MAN electronically-controlled main engine, and the adoption of an integrated approach to cargo access, lashing and loading arrangements.     

The weekly sailing schedule under the new SWX operation to the Pacific seaboard of South America involves direct calls at seven ports in Latin America and five in northwest Europe, entailing a round-voyage time of 63 days. With the introduction of the SWX service, the company is terminating a second Panamax vessel loop (SW2) and two slot charter agreements (EW1, EW2) in the same trade lane. The rationale behind the restructure is to bring more efficient ships into the north Europe/South America west coast traffic without engendering a significant increase in net capacity.

The SWX liner operation is being promoted as a premium service in the trade, covering the major markets in northern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific coast of South America. The direct-call itinerary encompasses Rotterdam, London Gateway, Hamburg, Antwerp and Le Havre, Caucedo (Dominican Republic), Cartagena (Colombia), Manzanillo (Panama), Buenaventura (Colombia), Callao (Peru) and Valparaiso (Chile). In addition, Guayaquil (Ecuador) and Paita (Peru) are served by dedicated feeder  links from Buenaventura.


One of the most outstanding features of the new design is the very high capacity for refrigerated containers, expressing the company’s strategy of strengthening its market position in the transport of temperature-sensitive goods.  A total 2,100 reefer sockets have been provided, whereby 1,250 are above deck and 850 are in the holds.

Since each plug caters for a 40ft box, the potential reefer complement equates to 4,200 TEU, representing 40% of the ship’s overall slot capacity. Although it is expected that the maximum number of plugs used at any one time in operation will not exceed 1,700, the availability of a further 400 slots for temperature-controlled units affords extra flexibility, as for stowage planning purposes. Even at a figure of 1,700 sockets, this still constitutes the highest reefer capacity in the South America west coast/North Europe trade. By comparison, the latest 9,600 TEU boxships deployed by Hamburg-Sud on a similar schedule offer 1,600 reefer plugs per sailing.  

Hapag-Lloyd anticipates growth in reefer exports from South America, with products such as bananas, avocados, deep-frozen fish and grapes figuring prominently in the traffic from the east coast ports to Europe. The southbound trade also entails temperature-sensitive freight, primarily deep-frozen french fries, onions, potatoes, frozen vegetables, and also pharmaceutical products, making for two-way utilisation of specialised equipment.

The shipbuilding programme for the Valparaiso Express class resulted in the first ships being brought to sea in time for the beginning of the harvest season in Latin America.

In conjunction with the investment in the five newbuild vessels, the owner ordered 5,750 reefer containers, comprising 5,000 40ft boxes and 750 20ft units. Controlled atmosphere (CA) technology, which allows various types of fruit and vegetables to be transported for longer periods of time while maintaining a consistent quality, has been specified for 1,000 of the new boxes, using the XtendFRESH CA system developed by cooling technology specialist Carrier Transicold.

Installed on PrimeLINE refrigeration units, XtendFRESH actively manages oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels within the containers and removes ethylene, thereby slowing the ripening process and helping to preserve produce quality beyond the level achievable by refrigeration alone.

Through the capability to maintain precise conditions to optimise quality for specific commodities, it is anticipated that the system will better enable the line’s customers to reach new markets involving extended shipping distances.


So as to achieve the maximum cargo density capacity in conjunction with better ensuring cargo security and ship turnaround efficiency, Hapag-Lloyd has implemented an integrated, optimised loading and lashing system. The solution and equipment provided by Cargotec under its MacGregor brand comprised hatch covers, lashing bridges, loose lashings and container fittings, along with related software and a lifecycle support package.

Access to the holds is by way of up to four hatch covers, instead of the more standard three-abreast configuration, affording greater flexibility during loading and unloading. In addition, the weatherdeck’s lattice of lashing bridges embraces three tiers of containers, providing increased security for the considerable number of boxes carried on deck, and reducing the amount of lashing and unlashing work that has to be undertaken during each port call.

“Cargo system flexibility during loading and unloading operations, in addition to attaining a vessel’s actual payload capacity, is crucial for maximising a ship’s revenue and long-term profitability,” observed Tommi Keskilohko, director at MacGregor Customer Solutions. “Such efficiency can only be achieved when all parts of a cargo system are designed as one integrated element at an early stage of any newbuild project, before any restrictive decisions have been made.”

The two-island arrangement, whereby the bridge and superstructure are located amidships, leaving the funnel uptake casing aft, improves stability and creates extra deck loading capacity without compromising line-of-sight visibility.

On her initial passage, Valparaiso Express became the highest capacity vessel to transit the new, larger locks of the Panama Canal, capable of accommodating a beamier generation of containerships, potentially up to 14,000 TEU. Following calls in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, the vessel had accessed the waterway at the Pacific end and used the new Cocoli Locks. After completing its transit into the Caribbean Sea through the new Agua Clara Locks, she docked at Manzanillo International Terminal in Panama before proceeding to the Dominican Republic and across the North Atlantic to northwest Europe.

In acknowledgement of the design’s emissions-combating technical features, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) granted the vessel its recently introduced Green Connection Award. The Panamanian initiative recognises canal users who demonstrate outstanding environmental stewardship and is also intended to encourage others to implement technologies and meet standards that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is contended that, by using the expanded Panama Canal, the Valparaiso Express will generate 8,500t less CO2 on a round-trip compared with alternative routings.


The seven-cylinder MAN S90ME-C10 main engine, incorporating electronic, emission-reducing valve control, has been specified at a power output of 34,224kW, with direct drive to a five-bladed propeller to ensure service speeds up to 21 knots. The propulsion engine in conjunction with a hull form tailored to the load and speed profiles in the South America liner trade will confer enhanced efficiency across the complete operating spectrum. As a further hydrodynamic improvement measure, the rudder has a bulb on its leading edge.

To sustain the considerable electrical load entailed with large consignments of reefer boxes, the auxiliary installation is necessarily more extensive than that of comparable capacity containerships with far fewer reefer plugs. Figuring prominently but intermittently among the other consumers is the Kawasaki bow thruster, delivering up to 2,500kW during manoeuvring.

A total of five gensets driven by Daihatsu diesels provide the requisite power and reserve. Four of the aggregates are based on the DE-33 engine in its eight-cylinder version, and a fifth employs the six-cylinder model, providing a combined output of 21,270kW. All the machinery was produced at Daihatsu’s Moriyama factory in Japan.

The Valparaiso Express class incorporates cold-ironing arrangements, whereby the ship’s electrical network can be fed from the shoreside grid while alongside in port, obviating the usual need to run auxiliaries. A special, containerised connection unit is provided at the stern.

Complementary capacity to the latest neo-Panamax breed is provided by the 9,300 TEU post-Panamax vessels ordered by CSAV prior to the merger with Hapag-Lloyd. Delivered by Samsung in 2014-2015, each of the seven-ship series is fitted with 1,400 reefer plugs.

Hapag-Lloyd is set for further expansion among the top flight of containership operators through the impending merger with United Arab Shipping Company (UASC).


Length overall


Length bp


Breadth, moulded






Gross tonnage




Container capacity

10,593 TEU

Reefer points


Main engine, specified output



21 knots

Auxiliaries (5), total output




Class notations

+100A5 E, Container ship,BWM (D2), DG, IW, LC, NAV, RSD, +MC E AUT, CM-PS, EP-D, RCP (1700/25)





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