CMA CGM delays boxship fuelling decision

French liner giant CMA CGM has pushed back a final decision on the fuelling choice for its recently confirmed new breed of giant boxship newbuildings, worth an estimated $1.3bn to $1.4bn.

Industry sources working on the project say CMA CGM has asked for more time to finalise this aspect of the project while it seeks answers to outstanding technical questions and waits to see who is going to offer the best price on LNG.

Shell, Total and Engie are among companies that are understood to be offering to supply LNG as bunkers for the vessels.

A decision on whether to build the vessels LNG-ready, where space for LNG bunker tanks and fuel gas supply systems is built into the ship’s design, or with dual-fuelling, which would utilise LNG, is expected to be finalised within a month.

Industry players say a decision to opt for LNG fuelling would be “very significant”. CMA CGM would be setting a new trend among the major liner players as they gear up to meet the International Maritime Organization's tougher regulations on sulphur emissions, which come into force from 2020.

However, it would also add an estimated $20m to the cost of each newbuilding.

This compares with around $5m per ship to fit an exhaust gas scrubber.

The focus swung back on to CMA CGM this week when the company finally confirmed its huge newbuilding haul with Chinese shipyards. But no details emerged on the liner outfit’s much-anticipated decision on a fuelling choice for the ships.

Contracts were signed in Marseille with CSSC-controlled yards Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) and Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS).

The two yards will split an order for nine 22,000-teu, 59-metre beam containership newbuildings — the largest boxships yet to be ordered — between them. The first vessel is scheduled to come into service in 2019. Options for up to three vessels are also believed to be part of the deal.

Newbuilding sources have said that if the dual-fuel option is selected, Hudong-Zhonghua will build five of the vessels and take the lead on the project as it has experience of building LNG carriers. SWS would take on the remaining four.

For the design for the dual-fuel ships, CMA CGM has been looking at installing a 14,000-cbm membrane-type LNG bunker tank so that a vessel would not need to refuel while on a voyage from China to Europe. Tank sizes could be reduced as more LNG supply infrastructure comes onstream.

CMA CGM is part of the Ocean Alliance alongside key Chinese shipowner Cosco, Orient Overseas Container Line and Evergreen.