Maersk Line is once again leading the container industry with the order of 10 18,000 TEU vessels designed as Triple-E class ships. Triple-E stands for Energy efficiency, Economy of scale and the Environment. These ships will be built in Korea and set for delivery between 2013 and 2015. They will ply the Asia - Europe trades. Only Rotterdam, Felixstowe and Bremerhaven have ports deep enough to accommodate ships of this size, which will be bigger than an aircraft carrier. At well over a billion dollars, its the worlds biggest container ship order ever.
Maersk used to build all their ships in their own shipyards in Odense, Denmark. No more, The Danes finally threw in the flag in 2009 realizing that vessels could be built cheaper in Asia. Daewoo Shipbuilding will construct the 3E ships.
These ships are said to be quite green ecologically. Maersk says the Triple-E class vessels will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 50% per container moved, compared to the industry average.
The size of these ships to an old steamboater like me is mind blowing. I started at United States Lines in 1983 back when USL was touting their then new 4400 TEU "Econoships" which were built to travel around the world in an eastbound direction.
Those vessels failed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was container repositioning back to westbound origins, USL's newcomer status in the Europe-Asia market, old closed FEFC conference system, limited port calls in Europe and the advent of cheap oil in the early 80's. It was the cheap oil that killed the deal in reality though. These were ships that were ahead of their time, being built for slow steaming and economical container movement. While considered small by today's standards, the USL ships would have been right at home in today's economic environment.
The Maersk Triple E ships are the USL Econoships idea writ large. Designed for massive container movement, Maersk claims these ships will move a load from Asia to Europe at 30% less cost than current vessels, which are already massive in scale. I remember when I thought Emma Maersk was huge...at a mere 11000 TEU. What will be interesting will be to see what the load factors are on the eastbound voyages back to Asia. I suspect a lot of empty containers will be the main business and a very cheap rate on a revenue load. NVOCC's will love these ships because there is NO way Maersk is filling these ships up without help from the major NVOCC's.
The ships this class of vessels will replace won't be going away. The classes represented by Regina Maersk and Emma Maersk at 7000 and 11000 TEU's will have to go somewhere. The Triple-E's will have swallowed one of each. I suspect that will be the eastbound transpacific trades. This could easily bring major new capacity and rate compression to this and other global markets as the big ships cascade to the lesser trades unless Maersk takes a new view about vessel sharing.
Check out Maersk's web site specifically made for the Triple-E Class.