The world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered container ship rolled off the slipway this week at Shanghai’s Jiangnan-Changxing shipyard, marking a major milestone both for the worldwide shipping industry and China’s shipbuilding. The CMA CGM Jacques Saadé, named after the late French-Lebanese businessman who founded the world’s fourth-biggest shipping line, is an ultra large container vessel with the capacity to carry 23,112 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo. It is also the largest vessel to ply the high seas using LNG, instead of sulphur-emitting bunker fuel. While some shipping lines are installing expensive scrubbers to wash sulphur content from a ship’s exhaust, and others are resorting to low-sulphur fuel to comply with the International Maritime Organisation’s IMO 2020 regulation to drastically cut sulphur emissions, CMA CGM has chosen a different path. The fuel reduces the emissions of sulphur oxide and fine particles by 99 per cent, nitrogen oxides by 85 per cent and carbon dioxide by around 20 per cent, the shipping line said. The Jacques Saadé will be the first of nine 23,000-TEU leviathans to be powered by LNG. By 2022, CMA CGM will have 20 LNG-powered ships in operation. CMA CGM is ranked as the world’s fourth largest container shipping line, with 528 vessels, 190 of which are directly owned by the company. The Jacques Saadé, which took over a year to build, will enter service in 2020 and will ply the route between Asia and northern Europe. Currently, the world’s largest container cargo ship is the MSC Gulsun, which has a capacity of 23,756 TEU. For Jiangnan-Changxing, the delivery of the first vessel marks a leap in China’s shipbuilding technology as the nation tries to catch up with South Korea’s shipyards like Hyundai Heavy Industries Group, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. The fuel tank of the Jacques Saadé, large enough to hold the Statue of Liberty, features an insulated hull that can keep its fuel in liquid state at minus 161 degrees. Before the 400-metre Jacques Saadé, the largest LNG-powered ships were the 325-metre Carnival cruise ship AIDAnova, and the Sovcomflot 250-metre tanker Gagarin Prospect, both launched in 2018. Gagarin Prospect was built by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries in Korea, while AIDAnova was built by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. About 60 per cent of the world’s ship orders will be for LNG-fueled vessels by 2025, according to a 2019 report by the Korea Development Bank and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. CMA CGM chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé, son of Jacques R Saadé, ordered the new LNG-powered vessels in 2017. In December 2017, CMA CGM signed a 10-year agreement with French energy giant Total to supply 300,000 tons of liquefied natural gas a year starting in 2020. Arrival of OOCL’s massive cargo vessel heralds China’s growing power in shipping “LNG is the fuel of the future for shipping,” said Rodolphe Saadé at the time. “With this groundbreaking decision by the CMA CGM Group, the entire maritime industry will benefit from the new supply chains that will be created.” Bunkering, or refuelling of ships, has been a major issue for the shipping industry as it faces disruption to traditional fuel supply chains. Concerns over stable supplies of new, low-sulphur fuels have pushed some shipping companies to look again at LNG. A May 2019 report by the American Bureau of Shipping noted that it has taken 10 years for LNG bunkering infrastructure to develop and supply less than 1 per cent of the global fleet. There are only a few hundred ships in a global commercial fleet of over 60,000 vessels currently powered by LNG. Singapore, the world’s largest fuel bunkering port, has already been building up facilities to allow LNG-powered ships to refuel, but is still in the midst of a pilot programme to test LNG bunkering operations. While LNG burning does cut carbon emissions, the ABS report noted that burning LNG alone would not meet potential IMO greenhouse gas targets for 2030 or 2050. A ship’s working life is estimated to be around 20 years.