The gas giants: CMA CGM’s landmark LNG orders

CMA CGM's 'Marco Polo': Base case for engine room free LNG studies and a forerunner of the new 22,000 teu orders CMA CGM's 'Marco Polo': Base case for engine room free LNG studies and a forerunner of the new 22,000 teu orders

The first order for LNG-fuelled ultra-large containership newbuilds came from CMA CGM as industry insiders prepared to attend The Motorship’s Gas Fuelled Ships event. Further revelations about the ground-breaking ships came throughout the conference, writes Gavin Lipsith.

The announcement intended to send a message to COP23, the meeting of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - and in particular the signatories to the Paris Agreement – that convened in Bonn in November. CMA CGM used the order to highlight its efforts to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% between 2015 and 2025. With up to 25% less CO2 emitted compared to conventionally fuelled vessels and a 20% improvement to the Energy Efficient Design Index, the ships will be major contributors towards that goal.

Rodolphe Saadé, CMA CGM Group CEO and chairman, stated: “We have made the bold decision to equip our future 22,000 TEUs vessels with a technology firmly focused on the protection of the environment. By choosing LNG, CMA CGM confirms its ambition to be a leading force in the industry in environmental protection by being a pioneer in innovative and eco-responsible technologies.”

The news also set discussions alight in Rotterdam at the annual Europort exhibition, also taking place as the order was announced, and will likely feature heavily this month at Marintec in Shanghai. Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co and Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co - both subsidiaries of China State Shipbuilding Corp - will build five and four of the vessels respectively.

The Motorship's Gas Fuelled Ships conference came a week after COP23, held on 13-15 November onboard Viking Line cruise ferry Mariella, and brought together many of the suppliers that had already been announced as partners in the project - among them classification society Bureau Veritas, main engine supplier Winterthur Gas & Diesel (WinGD) and membrane tank manufacturer GTT.

CMA CGM's 'Marco Polo': Base case for engine room free LNG studies and a forerunner of the new 22,000 teu orders


GTT was chosen by CMA CGM and Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding - which will build five of the ships and all nine cryogenic fuel gas tanks - to design the massive, 18,600m3 capacity tanks. When the ships are delivered in 2020 they will feature by far the biggest fuel gas tanks ever deployed and will be among the first to use membrane technology.

Announcing the contract ahead of Gas Fuelled Ships, Philippe Berterottière, chairman and CEO of GTT, noted: "This order is a game-changer. It marks the adoption of clean fuels by the container ships' industry. GTT is proud to work side by side with CMA CGM and Hudong-Zhonghua within this revolution."

Speaking at Gas Fuelled Ships, Emmanuel Rousseau, LNG as fuel division - market development manager, GTT provided more detail. The company will design a customised Mark III membrane tank. It will feature the standard 270mm thick insulation, but the size of the tanks means that both maximum pressure and foam density (to minimise sloshing) will be adapted, to 70barg and 210kg/m3 (from the usual 130kg/m3) respectively. The tank is integrated into the hull to both improve use of space and reduce the additional weight - as Rousseau pointed out, the lighter the tank, the greater the deadweight capacity of the new vessels.

Particularly interesting is GTT's approach to boil off gas. Although boil-off gas can easily be fed to the dual-fuel engines for most of the ships' operations - power demand will exceed the maximum boil-off of 5MW around 85% of the time, Rousseau noted – regulations require that the tanks can handle the boil off from 15 days of idling. To accommodate this the project team has considered a gas combustion unit to burn built-up gas, although Rousseau believes that yards will find the installation of this dedicated (and probably unused) piece of equipment inefficient. GTT believes that a more economical option would be the conversion of an auxiliary boiler to dual-fuel, with an energy dissipation loop to suck up any gas not used.


The 18,600m3 tanks, sized to accommodate a roundtrip from Europe to Asia on just one bunkering, may be a surprise to some. It represents a not inconsiderable trade off in cargo capacity while gas bunker is likely to be available at both ends of the journey. Classification society Bureau Veritas will class the ships and has assisted in the design project with feasibility studies concerning bunkering.

Martial Claudespierre, business development manager, Bureau Veritas discussed the vessels briefly during his presentation at Gas Fuelled Ships, which focused mainly on the retrofitting of Wessels Reederei feeder ship Wes Amelie. Claudespierre noted that although LNG bunkering would likely be available in Singapore by the time the ships are delivered – in fact bunkering should be available this year – the designers have to accommodate the worst-case scenario of taking on gas fuel in Europe only.

That perspective leaves the door open for the tanks to be resized at a later date. But even at a lower capacity - as an indicator, a retrofit project for a ULCS by Mitsui OSK Line envisions an 11,000m3 tank with bunkering in both Europe and Asia - the refuelling operation will require a bunkering vessel on a bigger scale than most available today. The likely solution is for a dedicated bunker vessel to be built. But as no gas supplier has been confirmed - Total is in pole position given its memorandum of understanding with CMA CGM signed in February this year - and any order for a newbuild bunkering vessel will follow that decision.

The nine ships - the largest containerships currently on order - will be powered by what will be the most powerful dual-fuel engines ever built. Winning that order is a further milestone for WinGD, which was already celebrating some major achievements this year after securing two multi-vessel orders to power dual-fuel Aframax tankers - the biggest gas-fuelled tankers so far.

Rudolf Wettstein of WinGD attended Gas Fuelled Ships to present case studies based on the Aframaxorders, for Sovcomflot and AET. But while those tankers will use 620mm bore X62 engines, the ones required by the CMA CGM ships are much bigger. The 12-cylinder, 920mm bore X92 engines will be rated at 63,840kW at 80rpm.
Ludovic Gérard, vice president of owned fleet, CMA CGM, said: “With this move to LNG energy, CMA CGM is moving ahead for a greener shipping. We selected WinGD engines for the main propulsion on the grounds of their experience in dual-fuel engines and our positive feedback on the two-stroke Generation X engines.”

Winterthur Gas & Diesel 12-cylinder, 920mm bore dual-fuel engines rated at 63.84GW will power the newbuilds


WinGD's X-DF technology has some important advantages. The Otto Cycle combustion process means that only low-pressure gas admission is required, meaning that CMA CGM will not have to invest in expensive high-pressure fuel gas systems. And unlike Diesel Cycle engines, the X-DF series meets IMO's Tier III NOx limits when burning gas meaning that no exhaust gas recirculation or selective catalytic reduction is required - a further saving in equipment costs.

“Given the low NOx emissions of dual-fuel engines using lean burn combustion and the extremely low sulphur content of natural gas, by choosing our X-DF engines and LNG, CMA CGM is automatically complying with all existing and future emissions regulations,” says Volkmar Galke, general manager of sales at WinGD. “The built-in efficiency of our lean-burn dual-fuel engines is also complemented by the favourable ratio of carbon-to-hydrogen in methane - the main constituent of natural gas - which mean that our X-DF engines are already low emitters of CO2 compared to liquid fuelled engines. Our X-DF engines are thus an excellent starting point for playing a full part in achieving the 30% improvement in overall vessel efficiency up to 2025 specified by the IMO's Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI).”

The auxiliary engines will also be dual-fuelled, The Motorship can confirm, although the company has yet to select the supplier. The choice will be between Wärtsilä - a provider of engines that CMA CGM is both familiar with and which, through its relationship with WinGD, provides after-sales service for the two-stroke engine designer - and Hyundai's marine four-stroke brand HiMSEN.


It is worth noting that CMA CGM's gas-fuelled move has been signalled for some time. In 2011 the company's subsidiary CMA Ships launched a design project for a large capacity dual-fuel containership with Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. The project was approved in principle by Bureau Veritas.

A second, arguably more radical project was launched in 2015 to study the possibility of an LNG-fuelled large containership that would be powered not by internal combustion engines but by a gas and steam turbine system - a so called 'piston engine room-free' containership, or PERFECt ship. In partnership with class society DNV GL, GTT, ABB, Caterpillar subsidiary Solar Turbines and OMT, that project has just completed its second phase. The results were presented at Gas Fuelled Ships 2017.

In October 2016 CMA CGM and Engie (which has very recently sold most of its LNG business) signed a memorandum to promote LNG as the marine fuel for tomorrow's container vessels. The project included a joint technical and economic study on LNG as a fuel for tomorrow's container ships, as well as a study about the development of engineering specifications for a bunkering vessel adapted to LNG powered container ships.

The move may have been heralded for some time, but it is likely to remain a defining landmark in the emergence of LNG as a marine fuel not just for coastal and short-sea shipping, but a viable option for long range, deep-sea shipping operations.



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