AUGUST 13, 2012 —Grimaldi Group member Atlantic Container Line (ACL) has signed a contract with Chinese state-owned Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding, Shanghai, to build the five largest RO/RO containerships (CONROs) in the world. The G4 (Generation 4) vessels will replace ACL's existing fleet of G3 CONROs operating in the company's transatlantic service.
The new vessels will be the first of their type ever built. They will be bigger, faster, greener and more efficient than their predecessors. The G4's will have a container capacity of 3800 TEUs plus 28,900 square meters of RO-RO space, with a car capacity of 1,307 vehicles. Speed will be increased by 10%, yet fuel consumption per TEU will be reduced by 50%. The new ships will continue to employ cell-guides on deck, a feature that ACL says will enable it to extend an enviable record: its ships have never lost a container over the side during the last 30 years.
All five vessels will be delivered in 2015.
The ships are being built to an innovative design by International Maritime Advisors (IMA) of Dragoer, Denmark, and provides a solution to the problem of high ballast on CONRO vessels.
Virtually all current CONRO ships stow containers on deck and lighter RORO cargo underdeck. Because of the significant air space that naturally occurs on RORO decks compared to the denser stowage of containers, most of the weight rides high on a standard CONRO vessel, requiring a great deal of ballast for stability.
IMA developed the concept of putting all the RORO cargo midships, and stowing the containers in cells fore and aft of the RORO section. This results in cargo replacing ballast and much more efficient use of vessel space.
Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding commissioned Knud E. Hansen of Helsingor, Denmark to adapt the IMA CONRO concept to ACL's requirements.
Quality control was a very important consideration in ACL's choice of a shipbuilder. Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding has a reputation as one of the highest quality shipyards in China. It has built over 3,000 ships including complex special purpose vessels and naval vessels.HZ's quality control systems, their professionalism and innovative ideas won over both ACL and its parent company Grimaldi.
"We have taken our time to make this decision because we had to get it right," explained Andrew Abbott, President & CEO of ACL. "We were able to buy at the perfect time and got a first class shipyard to help us to create a new standard to which all future CONROs will be compared. The dramatic increase in efficiency is essential for our long term competitiveness. We will have the equivalent of 6,500 TEU containerships in terms of earning power and economies of scale, but with far lower costs."
ACL is studying its current port rotation and will be making some enhancements. Although its new schedule has not been firmed up, it is expected that one or two traditional ACL port calls may be dropped to make room for a new South Atlantic port.
Bill Kearns, ACL's Executive Vice President, notes that "we have been forced to put many of our loyal customers on allocations for many years because we were never able to grow with the market. It will be satisfying to be able to accept all the cargo that our customers offer us, instead of being constrained by space limitations."
"The G4s demonstrate to our customers and our staff that our parent company, Grimaldi, is prepared to invest for the future to maintain ACL's unique position as a high quality container and RO/RO operator on the North Atlantic," says Mr. Abbott. "Grimaldi has always been very supportive of ACL and its organization and they provided invaluable technical guidance and legal support during these negotiations. The G4's will give us the right tools to further enhance our track record of profitability for many years to come."