Asia-Europe trade set for 24,000 teu ships from 2019


New vessels orders by CMA CGM and MSC could herald the start of a new era of megamax container ships, according to Alphaliner.

Since the delivery of the world’s first Megamax container ship in 2013, the 18,340 teu Maersk McKinney Møller, orders for similar vessels − sometimes with more than 21,000 teu capacity − have flooded in, almost all using the 400 by 59 metre footprint of Maersk Line’s first-generation EEE-class.

However, this is about to change. “While exact vessel specifications have not been made public yet, Alphaliner believes that both MSC and CMA CGM have chosen ‘MGX24’ vessels with nominal intakes of well over 22,000 teu for their next-phase mainline fleet expansions,” said the analyst.

“Slated to come on stream in 2019 and 2020, all of the new super-jumbo ships are destined to phase into the Asia-Europe mainline trade, which today is already dominated by ‘Megamax’ ships of the current variety, the MGX23.”

Orders for eleven ‘MGX24’ for MSC and nine for CMA CGM suggests that by 2020, two weekly Far East-Europe services will be operated with this tonnage. “MSC is expected to deploy all vessels on a single eleven-week loop within the 2M framework,” said Alphaliner. “The French Line’s nine LNG-powered units could sail on a twelve-week round-trip, where they might be joined by CMA CGM’s three 20,656 teu ‘MGX23’ sisters currently under construction at HHIC in the Philippines for delivery in 2018.

“Based on a typical port rotation, the gradual introduction of these larger ships should be seamless and without major problems.”

While more or less retaining the overall length of current super jumbos, the next generation ‘MGX24’ vessels will be one row wider, with an increased breadth of about 61.40 meters.

The MSX24 terms comes from the design’s length of 24 container bays, breadth of 24 deck rows and height of 24 container tiers − twelve in holds and up to twelve on deck. The vessels will feature all the improvements observed in the more recently built jumbo container ships, including a relocated wheelhouse, a bulkier hull shape, an increased hull depth and draft, smaller engines, lower service speeds and raised container lashing bridges. 

“While these improvements allowed second-generation ‘MGX-23’ ships to reach intakes in excess of 21,000 teu, compared to around 19,000 teu for earlier models, the same design features will allow the wider ‘MGX-24’ vessels to carry 22,000 to 23,500 teu,” said Alphaliner.

“It has to be said of course, that all these nominal intake numbers assume ‘perfect’ conditions when it comes to factors such as container mix and weight. As with most container ship types, the achievable maximum loads under real-life conditions will be notably lower than the on-paper numbers.”

Alphaliner said ‘MGX24’ designs should not, however, pose new technical challenges for port terminals, given that they will fit into most terminals that already handle the current-day ‘MGX-23’ ships.

“Since draft and length remain almost unchanged compared to today’s mainline ULCS of 20,000 teu, most major ports can accommodate the ships at selected berths,” it said. “In many cases, terminals built to handle jumbo ships still have some wiggle room and new or upgraded cranes can reach across 24 rows.”