Carrier spends US$550M on one of its biggest container orders to date and continues its move to steel flooring.
Hapag-Lloyd has announced it has ordered 150,000 TEU of new containers. The carrier phased in 350,000 additional containers in 2020, a mix of owned and leased units, but said “today it needs significantly more than the normal number of boxes to carry the same volume because boxes are turning slower”.
The figure of 150,000 TEU includes dry and reefer boxes (Hapag-Lloyd did not provide a breakdown). Some of the boxes were delivered in Q1 2021, but most are expected to be delivered in the upcoming months. Additionally, Hapag-Lloyd has ordered 8,000 TEU of special containers to be used for over-sized or dangerous goods.
“The container shipping industry is currently seeing unprecedented demand, which has led to a shortage of containers all over the world. With its recent container orders, Hapag-Lloyd is contributing to efforts to ease the current situation and will be able to offer its customers a much better service,” said Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd.
It is likely that a number of the containers will have steel floors, something Hapag-Lloyd has pioneered from 2013. In 2020 Hapag-Lloyd added 12,000 TEU of containers with steel floors, and they now account for 40% of its fleet of open top containers.
It is not just with open tops that Hapag-Lloyd is looking to roll out steel floors. The carrier is backing steel floors to take over from bamboo and hybrid flooring as its preferred alternative to hardwood in dry boxes. Earlier this month the carrier said: “Containers with exclusively bamboo floors now account for the smallest share, while containers with wood-bamboo hybrid floors continue to account for the largest share. However, Hapag-Lloyd now regards these hybrid floors as merely a temporary solution, as they carry a lower maximum payload, are heavier themselves and are more expensive to dispose of. This means that steel floor containers are the future of containers."
“Much larger point loads can be loaded into steel floor containers per running metre, which makes them particularly attractive for heavy goods like machines,” said David Piel, Senior Manager for Special Cargo at Hapag-Lloyd.
Not all wooden flooring is the same, but Hapag-Lloyd gave a comparison of a 20ft container with a floor load of 4.6t per meter with a wood floor, compared to a steel floor that can load 7.6 tonnes per metre. In 40ft boxes, it said, steel floors can bear twice as much weight per meter as wood.
Critics of steel floors have said that securing and lashing is slower and more difficult with steel flooring, as scrap wood and blocking cannot be nailed to a steel to secure a load. While this practice is frowned upon by container owners, it is widespread. Piel said that Hapag-Lloyd’s steel floor containers have “a lot more lashing points”, and securing cargo “is just as easy, if not easier, and faster with a steel floor container than with a wooden floor container."
Other advantages of steel floors include easier cleaning, and the ability to use the container for different types of cargo without residue or odour from previous cargo being a concern, plus the fact that steel is more durable, as well as being recyclable at the end of the container life.
“Hapag-Lloyd is continuing its process of transitioning from wood-bamboo hybrid floors to steel floors, and views this as a long-term project. But this will first require some changes in the supplier market, including the addition of more production capacities,” Hapag-Lloyd concluded.