COPENHAGEN, October 25, 2023 – Maersk, a global leader in shipping and logistics, continues to demonstrate its commitment to transitioning its fleet towards methanol power. The company has recently awarded a contract for the conversion of a six-year-old mainline vessel to run on methanol fuel. Maersk has selected Zhoushan Xinya Shipyard in Ningbo-Zhoushan, China, to carry out the ship conversion and engine retrofit, according to Alphaliner.
The vessel chosen for this transformation is the 15,282 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) MAERSK HALIFAX, which is part of the unique ‘Maersk-H class’ of overpanamax ships. These vessels, characterized by their impressive 353.00 meters in length and 53.50 meters (21 rows) width, were originally delivered by Hyundai from 2017 to 2019 and have been serving on the Maersk-operated 2M service ‘AE12’ (MSC: ‘Phoenix’). The conversion of MAERSK HALIFAX is set to take place in mid-2024 and is expected to last for approximately three months.
Maersk’s ambitious transition program extends to its entire series of ‘H-class’ ships. In addition to the conversion efforts, Maersk is implementing a capacity upgrade program, including the addition of heightened lashing bridges and ‘Mickey Mouse Ears,’ aimed at increasing the ships’ carrying capacity. While the exact numbers are yet to be determined, this upgrade is expected to enhance the vessel’s total carrying capacity from 15,282 TEU to approximately 15,800 TEU. This initiative aligns with Maersk’s ongoing project to boost the intake of its first-generation ‘EEE-class’ ships.
The adoption of methanol as a fuel source, given its lower energy density compared to conventional fuels, often necessitates the installation of additional bunker tanks. However, the ‘H-class’ lashing bridge upgrade is designed to offset any capacity loss resulting from holds being converted into tanks, thereby maintaining the ships’ overall intake at around 15,300 TEU.
The MAERSK HALIFAX is a ship with a remarkable history, having suffered extensive fire damage in March 2018 while operating under the name MAERSK HONAM. Following substantial repairs, which essentially involved building half a new ship and welding it to the undamaged portion of the MAERSK HONAM, the vessel was reintroduced to service in August 2019 under its current name. The significant 2019 repair reset the vessel’s drydock schedule, allowing the methanol conversion to coincide with its ‘five-year’ docking, despite its original 2017 construction date.
In contrast to some competitors who have significantly expanded their newbuilding pipelines, Maersk has taken a more conservative approach. Apart from the recently delivered LAURA MAERSK, the company has publicly disclosed its orders for three series of methanol-powered ships, comprising 9,000 TEU, 16,200 TEU, and 17,000 TEU vessels. However, Maersk has maintained silence regarding any long-term commitments to charter additional newbuildings from third-party owners.
There have been reports that Maersk is associated with conventionally powered 5,900 TEU ships under construction at Imabari’s Marugame and Hiroshima shipyards, with the first vessel, MAERSK FELIXSTOWE, anticipated to enter service. Additionally, industry sources suggest links between Maersk and two series of four methanol-powered 5,900 TEU vessels, to be constructed by Tsuneishi Group’s shipyards in China and Japan. These developments are subject to confirmation.
Furthermore, Maersk has secured a series of compact neo-panamax vessels with conventional propulsion, scheduled for delivery starting in 2024. The first of these vessels, measuring just under 14,000 TEU, is currently under construction at JMU Kure in Japan, with likely plans for long-term charters.
This strategic focus on the sub-megamax size class (14,000 TEU to 17,000 TEU) underscores Maersk’s preference for these vessels, particularly in a post-2M scenario commencing in 2025. More information on these ships is expected to be revealed in the near future.
In another significant move, Maersk, in collaboration with Wartsila, has introduced an engine de-rating solution to adapt powerful container ship main engines to today’s slow-steaming environment. Two of Maersk’s 11,008 TEU sister ships, GERNER MAERSK and GUNDE MAERSK, had their original engines converted to a new, less powerful engine type during their 15-year class drydockings at Xinya Shipyard.
The conversion resulted in engines now delivering approximately 44,600 kW, a significant reduction from their original rating of 68,640 kW. These converted engines are expected to burn 10-15% less fuel when operated at their new optimum load, in compliance with the IMO’s carbon emissions regulations. Maersk currently operates six sister ships of this type, originally built between 2008 and 2009, with adjusted speeds of around 21 knots compared to their original design speed of 24 knots.