Demeter Credit Michael Ang
Credit Michael Ang

China United Lines has stretched its orderbook with a deal to buy two 2,400 teu ships from Yangzijiang Shipbuilding.

The Chinese state-controlled liner operator, which signed the ship construction contract on Friday, already has four 1,900 teu newbuildings on order at China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC)’s Huangpu Wenchong Shipbuilding.

Deliveries of the 2,400 teu ships are expected to begin in Q4 23, after which CU Lines will assign the vessels to intra-Asia routes.

The newbuild price was not disclosed, but a similar vessel on order at Yangzijiang is valued at around $34m.

Designed for energy efficiency by CSSC’s research unit, Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute, the newbuildings will meet the requirements of Phase III of the International Maritime Organization’s energy efficiency design index.

Soaring container freight rates across all routes is encouraging liner operators and tonnage providers to invest in newbuildings and shipbroker Clarksons estimates the current orderbook is equivalent to 18% of the active fleet.

It is CU Lines’ first order from Yangzijiang, the largest non-government-controlled Chinese shipbuilder. Lloyd’s Register, whose president of Greater China region Dr Xue Maogen attended the ship construction contract signing, will class the vessels.

Primarily an intra-Asia carrier, CU Lines ventured into the Asia-Europe segment in February, lured by historically high freight rates on the trade. After a few ad hoc sailings, “a good customer response” convinced the firm to make its Asia-Europe Express (AEX) service bi-weekly.

CU Lines operates more than 30 liner routes, covering mainly destinations within China and across Asia. In April, it began three services between Japan, Taiwan and South-east Asia.

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