container ships © Raducomes
© Raducomes

German shipowning group Peter Döhle Schiffahrts has broken a long-time holdout to order four 14,000 teu newbuilds in China, adding to a global shipping orderbook that will last past 2029.

The company has not placed a newbuild order since 2015, preferring to snap up second-hand tonnage – for example, from Capital Product Partners this year.

The new 14,000 teu vessels, each costing $150m, will be methanol-ready, but will be equipped with scrubbers.

This suggests the ships will initially burn heavy fuel oil and be converted to sulphur-free methanol – but it may also imply some capacity for carbon capture could be retrofitted.

Despite worries that a major tonnage overhang would set in this year and crush boxship earnings, the Red Sea crisis and subsequent re-routing of vessels has put paid to this, bringing enormous gains for shipowners that are only now beginning to slow.

The current shipbuilding orderbook looks set to last past 2029, with yards in China and South Korea struggling to find new capacity until then. According to Clarksons data, last year’s shipyards completed 35 million compensated gross tonnes (CGT), with some 40.6m expected to be delivered by the end of this year.

The total orderbook comprises some 133m CGT, according to data from BIMCO.

Meanwhile, environmentalists had better hope for some much better ship designs, and quickly, with the IMO GHG Strategy targeting a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions and the EU targeting 55%, by 2030 – the year after these newbuilds are set to deliver.

Aside from new fuels, potential emission reduction strategies for ships include new hull designs, air lubrication and nascent technology for shipboard carbon capture, which could be viable by 2030. Various designs of sail, including rigid, rotor and suction sail have been pitched, but have yet to address the  unique deck space and loading needs of containerships.

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