MSC Oscar becomes the world’s largest boxship

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Mediterranean Shipping Co container ship sets a new record at 19,224 teu

A NEW world record is about to be set by MSC Oscar, Mediterranean Shipping Co’s latest vessel, whose nominal capacity of 19,224 teu makes it the largest containership afloat

MSC Oscar, due to be handed over in January, is the first of a series to be acquired by the line through a long-term charter agreement.

The ship is just slightly larger than China Shipping’s CSCL Globe, which was officially declared at 19,100 teu a few weeks ago.

Until then, Maersk’s 18,270 teu Triple-E ships were the biggest in service.

The first of these was delivered in June 2013. To date,13 have now been built and another seven are still under construction.

“I am proud to announce the latest addition to our family, the MSC Oscar, which is the world’s largest container vessel today,” MSC president and chief executive Diego Aponte told Lloyd’s List.

“The Oscar will operate on our new-look Albatross service between Asia and Europe starting in January 2015.  The new fuel-efficiency engine will go one step further towards delivering a healthier supply chain for our customers.”

MSC Oscar, built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and classed by DNV GL, is 395.4 m long and 59 m wide.

The ship, registered in Panama, will be inaugurated during the first week in January and joins the Albatross service later in the month.

Waiting game

Confirmation of the size of MSC Oscar comes as the industry waits for the first 20,000 teu-class ship to be ordered.

Japan’s MOL is thought to be very close to placing an order for up to six of that size, through a lease agreement, for deployment within an Asia-Europe loop operated by the G6 alliance.

Another member of that consortium, OOCL, is expected to sign contracts soon for the same number of ships so as to complete the set needed for a service.

Evergreen has also said it is considering orders for ultra-large boxships.

MSC Oscar marks another stage of an extraordinary progression in containership sizes over the past two decades.

It is almost exactly 19 years since the world’s first 6,000 teu ship was unveiled to wide acclaim; the 318 m long, 43 m wide Regina Maersk was built at AP Moller-Maersk’s Odense shipyard.

That size was quickly surpassed, Maersk’s Emma Maersk setting the next benchmark with a capacity eventually acknowledged at 15,550 teu.

The 397 m long, 56 m wide ship was also built in Denmark, but Maersk turned to South Korea for its Triple-Es, with DSME landing the order.

These ships, built at the same yard in Okpo as MSC Oscar, are 400 m long, with a beam of 59 m.

Orders

The Danish line has ordered nothing since that contract was signed in February 2011.

However, MSC has been very active, with a large orderbook that could push the world’s number two containership operator into the top slot on current projections.

However Maersk Line, MSC’s partner in the 2M alliance, is poised to kickstart a newbuilding programme and has aready said the first orders are likely to be placed in the early months of 2015.

These are expected to include another four ships of similar size to the Triple-Es so as to have sufficient numbers for two Asia-Europe strings of 12 vessels apiece.

MSC, now headed by Diego Aponte who succeeded his father Gianluigi as president and chief executive in October, will overtake its arch rival and 2M partner in at least one measure with the arrival of the 196,000 dwt MSC Oscar.

The Aponte family is highly ranked in Lloyd’s List’s 2014 Top 100 most influential people in shipping that will be published tomorrow.

MSC Oscar is named after Diego Aponte’s son.

The new record-holder is one of three ships of similar size ordered for MSC initially ordered by  Hong Kong Asset Management in July 2013. However, China’s Bank of Communications Financial Leasing is thought to have subsequently taken over the contract

The ships were originally specified at 18,400 teu.

Charter deals

MSC’s orderbook also includes another six of nominal 19,000 teu capacity, while Emanuele Lauro’s Scorpio Group is negotiating to order three 20,000 teu ships that will be bareboat chartered to MSC.

Idan Ofer’s Quantum Pacific Group recently took a stake in this project.

According to the latest Lloyds List Intelligence data, Maersk’s live fleet stood at 2.5m teu in November after growth over the year of 3.5%.

MSC’s fleet capacity increased by 9.2% over the same period to 2.4m teu.

MSC’s orderbook stands at 34 ships of 424,200 teu, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, whereas Maersk has just seven ships in the pipeline, the remaining Triple-Es.

Most experts expect ship capacities to grow further, before probably plateauing at around 24,000 teu as land-side infrastructure and berth restrictions start to limit commercially viable vessel sizes.

Already, the arrival of the latest generation of super post-panamax ships in the Asia-Europe and transpacific trades is said to have contributed to port congestion.

Janet Porter

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