Dubai-based United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) is to invest US$1.4B in new ships, a move that will see it forge an even closer relationship with China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) and at the same take control of the largest containerships in the world.
According to the South Korean shipbuilding group Hyundai Heavy Industries, which has received the order, the contract signed with UASC is for 5 x 18,800 TEU ships and five smaller 14,500 TEU vessels. Delivery is scheduled for the latter part of 2014 and 1H 2015. The order includes options for a further 18,800 TEU unit and 6 x 14,500 TEU ships.
The largest ships will join 5 x 18,400 TEU vessels ordered by CSCL from the same yard earlier this year in a new Asia/Europe/Asia service string, the full details of which will be announced nearer the vessels’ delivery times. UASC and CSCL already co-operate in this tradelane as well as on several other routes, including those between Asia and North America and Asia and the Middle East.
The new ultra large container carrying vessels of UASC and CSCL will compete with 10 of Maersk Line’s 18,270 TEU Triple E-class units, two of which have already been delivered. The remaining eight are due to enter service by May 2014 by which time Maersk hopes to have finalised its new P3 operating alliance with MSC and CMA CGM. In all, Maersk’s Triple-E class series comprises 20 ships.
Jorn Hinge, president and CEO of UASC, has long argued about the need to deploy bigger and cleaner ships to reduce liner company unit costs and this new tonnage fully supports these views. These new ships, for instance, will feature an electronically-controlled main engine to maximise fuel efficiency, reduce noise and vibration, and cut carbon emissions.
The orderbook for 18,000 TEU-class ships is picking up, with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering having received orders from unidentified Asia-based shipowners, but with MSC linked as a possible charterer, since June 2013.
Currently, the largest ships deployed by UASC are rated at 13,500 TEU.