CMA-CGM adds weight to Asia-Europe run
Paul Richardson in London
CMA-CGM, the world's sixth-largest container shipping line, said it would increase its Asia-Europe capacity by almost 30 per cent by 2006, after news the company has ordered four of the world's largest containerships.
In a US$350 million contract, CMA-CGM has placed orders for four new 8,250-teu (20-ft equivalent unit) vessels with the world's largest shipbuilder, South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries, for delivery in 2006.
The new vessels will form part of an eight-ship fleet that will be deployed on the French Asia Line (FAL), replacing vessels of about 6,750 teu that were delivered to the FAL service during 2001.
With eight ships required to run the FAL service, market belief is high that a further four ships will be ordered in the next few days. Shipyard sources said ongoing contract discussions were linked to four extra vessels, although they would not be drawn on whether the ships were being ordered by CMA-CGM, or another company that would ultimately charter the vessels out.
Delivery of the 8,250-teu ships means the 6,750-teu vessels now deployed on the FAL will be switched to CMA-CGM's Asia-North Europe services, the North China Express (NCX), which deploys vessels of about 4,000 teu.
Subsequently, a series of eight 5,500-teu ships, expected to be delivered next year, and initially destined for the NCX, will now be deployed on the Mediterranean Express service, where they will replace 4,000-teu units.
CMA-CGM and the world's No2, Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), recently signed a co-operation agreement for the transpacific trades, where they will operate a joint service with five 8,100-teu vessels ordered earlier this year.
Analysts did not rule out the possibility MSC could also be involved in the latest ordering programme for new Asia-Europe ships. The latest CMA-CGM orders come only days after Greek shipowner Costamare booked three identical vessels with Hyundai, and will take options for two more of this size with the shipyard. The first three vessels are due for delivery in 2006.
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