Versatile vehicle carrier for North Atlantic trade

Grimaldi’s 'Grande Baltimora' provides flexible transportation capacity within the former Panamax beam Grimaldi’s 'Grande Baltimora' provides flexible transportation capacity within the former Panamax beam

Grimaldi’s new Chinese-built PCTC tonnage will support the growing automotive traffic between the Mediterranean and North America. David Tinsley reports.

Marking a new phase in the dynamic development of the Grimaldi Group’s deepsea ro-ro fleet, the pure car/truck carrier (PCTC) Grande Baltimora has been phased into the North Atlantic trade following delivery by Chinese shipbuilder Jinling Shipyard.

Configured with multiple decks for a maximum cargo intake corresponding to 6,700 CEUs (car-equivalent units), while offering a high degree of flexibility for ‘high and heavy’ vehicles and equipment and other ro-ro freight, Grande Baltimora leads a three-ship series for the Neapolitan  operator. The US$165m newbuild scheme was implemented on the strength of a shipment contract with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Notwithstanding the expansion of the Panama Canal through the construction of new, larger locks, Grimaldi’s trio from Jinling have been built to the former Panamax beam of 32.3m.

The design draws on that used in four PCTCs produced by Jinling for Gram Car Carriers, culminating in this year’s delivery of the 6,700CEU Viking Destiny. Developed by Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute (SDARI), the Gram vessels ranked at the time as the largest PCTCs built in China. Presumably, from the shipowner’s standpoint, there was a price advantage in opting for an existing Panamax version rather than instigating a neo-Panamax project.

Overall hull length is a shade under 200m, the parameter for many Japanese loading terminals, ensuring extra long-term trading scope and asset value.

Grande Baltimora sailed from Nanjing to New York in July for enrolment into the company’s weekly ro-ro service between the Mediterranean and North America. The schedule links Gemlik in Turkey, and the Italian ports of Gioia Tauro, Civitavecchia and Savona, with Halifax, New York, and Baltimore, returning eastbound via Veracruz (Mexico) and Antwerp.


As a consequence of Fiat’s full takeover of Chrysler several years ago, Grimaldi’s contract with the FCA automotive group provides the basis for two-way trade flow. FCA has an extensive production network on both sides of the Atlantic, turning out models under the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Trucks and other brands, plus an associated components supply chain that includes Magneti Marelli products.

The ramp-up of exports to the US and Canada from FCA’s Italian and Turkish factories, as well as flows in the other direction from the group’s Mexican plants, has had a signal bearing on Grimaldi’s service structure. In addition, the growth of the automotive industry as a whole in Mexico and Turkey, both of which have attracted considerable inward investment by foreign groups, has generated increased demand for transatlantic shipping space and dependable, quality service.

The vessel’s 12 cargo levels, including four hoistable decks, make for versatility across the range of vehicles, wheeled equipment and rolltrailer-borne freight. Payloads can potentially range from a full car manifest of 6,700 CEU to 4,000 linear metres of rolling units plus 2,500 CEU, and all permutations in between. The liftable decks provide scope for trucks, tractors, buses, excavators and other plant and machinery up to 5.2m in height, accessed via the MacGregor starboard quarter ramp, affording a 150-tonne capacity, supplemented by a 15-tonne capacity side ramp in the starboard midbody.

The dedicated, fixed car decks are of various deck heights to provide scope for different types of car, and take account of the market’s shift to generally higher cars including models in the sports utility vehicle (SUV) category.

Moreover, two of the four liftable decks, Nos 6 and 8, each have two raised positions, to give extra flexibility, and this results in three potential clearance heights for the corresponding, fixed decks 5 and 7. With the hoistable deck stowed, the 5.2m clearance on deck 5 is the maximum available anywhere on the ship. The No 1 tanktop deck provides a relatively substantial area in a lower hold context, with a 2m headroom when the raised deck is deployed and 3.7m when the latter is hoisted.


Internal transfers from the No5 loading deck level to the lower decks are made using a ramp system on the starboard side, and to the upper decks as far as deck 9 via ramps on the port side. After a 180-degree turn and traverse of deck 9, upward progress thereafter to deck 12 is by way of a ramp system on the starboard side.

Grande Baltimora is powered by a six-cylinder MAN two-stroke engine of the 600mm-bore S60ME-C type, supplied at a contracted maximum continuous rating of 12,200kW, giving a service speed of 19 knots. The exhaust uptake is routed to the narrow funnel casing on the port side. Manoeuvrability of the high, slab-sided, wind-prone vessel is enhanced by a 1,800kW bow thruster. The three auxiliaries are of MAN’s L21/31 series.

As the transatlantic duty pattern entails navigation in both European and North American emission control areas (ECA) that impose a 0.1% cap on sulphur, the Italian owner considered that the adoption of scrubber plant would offer the best economic and operational solution, enabling the ships to meet SOx compliance criteria while running continuously on fuel oil.

The exhaust stream from the MAN main engine is treated using an Alfa Laval PureSOx system configured in a hybrid arrangement. The U-type, hybrid design  permits operation in either open or closed loop mode. Open loop operation reduces costs whenever possible, but a switch to closed loop can be made on demand. By employing the closed loop option when sailing in US waters, the ships can meet the very strict Vessel General Permit (VGP) requirements governing wash water discharge.

Besides its ability to achieve a sulphur removal rate of 98% or more, the effectiveness of the PureSOx plant to trap up to 80% of particulate matter (PM) emissions is pertinent to the fact that the North American ECA (and also that spanning the US Caribbean), and unlike the European ECAs, includes limits on PM.


The latest series from Jinling signifies a strengthening of the business relationship with Grimaldi, which received six 1A ice-class ro-ro freight vessels from the Chinese yard in 2011-2012. The 3,300 lane-metre sextet was assigned to the group’s wholly-owned subsidiary Finnlines and its Baltic services.

The Italian organisation’s bold investment strategy has also boosted the Chinese shipbuilding industry’s workload elsewhere, as Yangfan Shipyard at Zhoushan is turning out a series of up to 10 larger, neo-Panamax PCTCs for deployment in Grimaldi’s North Atlantic trade. Each US$60m vessel has a multifarious ro-ro capability and an overall 7,724CEU capacity.

The Yangfan newbuilds have also been specified with hybrid PureSOx exhaust treatment plant, to meet SOx emission and wash water discharge limits in closed loop mode when on the US seaboard, with the flexibility to sail in open loop mode whenever allowed.

Grimaldi Group is characterised by continual reinvestment in ro-ro capacity across its deepsea and shortsea routes and trades, enabled by consistent profitability. Its commitment to improving environmental performance in parallel with unit efficiency at each new stage of fleet modernisation and development is driven not only by legislation and business goals, but by the belief that this is a matter of survival. The industry can expect even tougher regulatory requirements in the coming years, and only the most energy-efficient, lower-emission vessels will be able to compete.


Against this backcloth, plans have been advanced for an innovative series of ro-ro multipurpose carriers of record capacity, distinguished by a mix of technologies including under-hull air lubrication and energy storage systems, solar panels and inverters, a hydrodynamically optimised reverse bow and integrated propeller/rudder/aftship design, plus electronically-controlled main engine. Although the latter will run on heavy fuel oil, scrubbers will be incorporated to eliminate sulphur and combat particulate emissions.

The bank of batteries of lithium-ion type will obviate the need to run generators while in port, resulting in zero emissions and lessened fuel usage, and will be re-charged at sea using the main machinery.

Dubbed the Grimaldi Fifth Generation Green (G5GG) class, each vessel will be dimensioned for around 500 trailer units, around double that of preceding tonnage, while maintaining the same crew complement and fuel consumption as that of the earlier ships. At the time of writing, a contract covering six newbuilds plus four on option was under negotiation with an unnamed yard in Asia, for envisaged deliveries of the first batch of vessels by 2022.


Length overall


Length, load line


Length b.p.








Gross tonnage







6,700 CEU

Cargo decks


Main engine power


Generator capacity, total (4 sets)





Registro Italiano (RINa)

Class notations

Unrestricted navigation, C+, AUT-UMS, Green Star 3, BWM-E, flow-through BWM-T, InWaterSurvey, MON-SHAFT, +SYS-NEQ-1





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