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CMA CGM leads methanol order book

Caption: © CMA CGM

Six of the ten largest liner shipping companies have ordered methanol-powered ships. The fuel dominates the order book for container ships, with pioneer Maersk having already been ousted from the top spot.

With the commissioning of the “Ane Maersk” (16,000 TEU), the Danish shipping company Maersk can claim to have put the first mainliner container ship with methanol propulsion into service, after the first feeder with the new fuel set sail for the shipping company last year. The Danes still have more newbuildings with the technology in the pipeline, but other shipping companies have long since followed suit and in some cases overtaken Maersk. [ds_preview]

Ane Maersk Methanol Bunkerung Ulsan 1
Ship-to-ship bunkering of the “Ane Maersk” with green methanol in Ulsan © Ulsan Port Authority

The order book for CH₄O-powered container ships currently comprises a total of 152 units with a total capacity of over 1.75 million TEU, according to the latest data from Alpahliner. In the second half of 2023 and early 2024, a total of 98 new ships with a total capacity of 802,000 TEU were ordered. Methanol-powered vessels accounted for no less than 81.5% of this new capacity, while a further 14.3% related to methanol-capable orders. Market observers expect these figures to increase as methanol has proven to be the preferred fuel in the recent wave of orders.

Maersk led the way with the order for a single methanol-powered vessel in July 2021 (the “Laura Maersk”, 2,100 TEU , delivered in 2023), followed by orders for 24 further, larger vessels: 12 x 16,500 TEU, 6 x 17,500 TEU and 6 x 9,000 TEU. Following the delivery of the “Laura Maersk” and the “Ane Maersk”, the order backlog now stands at 338,500 TEU. Alphaliner also reports that the Danish shipping company is in the final stages of ordering ten to fifteen further 3,500 TEU methanol-powered ships in China.

Evergreen also ahead of Maersk when it comes to methanol

However, Maersk does not have the largest methanol order book. CMA CGM – previously a pioneer in the introduction of LNG as a fuel for large container ships – currently has the most new capacity with methanol dual-fuel propulsion under construction. The French shipping company has ordered twelve 15,000 TEU ships and twelve 13,000 TEU units. Eight further 9,200 TEU vessels ordered from Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding in September 2023 are reportedly methanol-powered, but could also be delivered with LNG dual-fuel engines, as the French shipping company apparently had concerns about fuel supply. However, Alphaliner believes the issues have been resolved and points to the signing of a contract with Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry to convert 9,300 TEU vessels to the new fuel.

The Chinese Cosco Group also has the first 24,000 TEU vessels powered by CH₄O under construction (seven for OOCL and five for Cosco) as well as a 16,000 TEU Neo-Panamax. Evergreen ordered 24 methanol-powered 16,000 TEU units in July 2023.
With this single order for a total of 384,000 TEU, the Taiwanese shipping company has also exceeded Maerks’ order book for methanol-powered vessels. If ONE’s latest order for twelve 13,000 TEU vessels and HMM’s nine 9,000 TEU units are taken into account, the six top 10 shipping companies now have a total of 113 CH₄O-powered units under construction.

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