China helps build world-beater

Hull segments for huge container ship built in Shandong and taken by barge to South Korea

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 May, 2013, 5:09am

Chinese shipbuilding experience is playing a key role in the construction of the world's biggest container ships, the first of which, the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, is due to start sea trials on May 27.

Twenty of the ships, which can each carry 18,270 20-foot containers and at 399.25 metres long are nearly the length of four soccer pitches, are being built for Maersk Line by South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

Maersk awarded Daewoo two contracts in 2011 totalling US$3.8 billion for the Triple-E ships, named for their economies of scale, energy efficiency and environmental improvements.

Peter Bertelsen, lead hull superintendent at Maersk Maritime Technology, said a lack of capacity at Daewoo and its South Korea subcontractors meant 40 per cent of the steel used in each ship is fabricated into massive hull sections in China.

These sections are built by DSME Shandong at Yantai in Shandong and brought to Daewoo's shipyard at Okpo by barge, a voyage that takes around seven days, according to Lee Sang-boo, ship construction manager. Maersk has two staff working at Yantai to ensure the hull segments, which are 59 metres wide and form the middle section of the ship, are built properly.

Soren Arnberg, site office manager for Maersk Maritime Technology, said construction of the ships is on programme, but the biggest challenge remains for Daewoo to understand the building schedule.

A visit to the bridge of the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller earlier this week showed navigation and other equipment in plastic wrapping as shipyard workers installed wiring, while work continued in the cargo holds. Maersk consultant Ken Park said "Korean efficiency" would ensure the ship was completed in time.

The ship will be christened and delivered next month, when it will be deployed on one of Maersk's 13 Asia-Europe services. The first commercial voyage will start from Busan on July 14 and include calls at Ningbo, Shanghai and Rotterdam. The vessel is set to arrive at Yantian on July 24, but the service does not include a call at Hong Kong.

Arnberg said five Triple-E vessels will be delivered by the end of this year, followed by the remaining 15 in 2014 and 2015. Each ship will be capable of carrying an extra 2,500 teu (20-foot equivalent units) compared with the biggest ships in Maersk's existing fleet. The 18,270 teu vessels can transport more than 111 million pairs of sports shoes.

Maersk claims the Triple-E vessel will cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 50 per cent per container moved compared with the container shipping industry's average CO2 emissions on the Asia-Europe trade. These reductions, which should be verified during the 12-day sea trials, will be achieved by more efficient twin engines recovering waste heat, steaming at slower speeds, a boxy hull design and an improved propulsion system.