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MSCs New Breed of Giant Container Ships Starts to Clean Up Ocean Shipping Sector

23.8.2019

Earlier this month the MSC Gülsün transited the Suez Canal en route from Northern China to Europe before docking in Algeciras. At a hair's breadth under 400 metres the ship is claimed as the largest container vessel in the world and is the first of a new class of 23,000+ TEU vessels to be added in 2019-2020 to the global shipping network of MSC, a world leader in transportation and logistics and the shipping industry's second largest box carrier.

The voyage was a landmark for the new breed of ocean vessels which are all targeted at producing emissions below the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) incoming sulphur cap and the Gülsün is loaded up with innovative engineering, all aimed at producing the cleanest working vessels to date. She features a bow shaped to enhance energy efficiency by reducing hull resistance. State-of-the-art engineering minimises wind resistance, resulting in lower fuel consumption.

To comply with the upcoming marine fuel regulation in 2020, the ship is also equipped with a UN IMO-approved hybrid Exhaust Gas Cleaning System and has the option of switching to low-Sulphur fuel, or to be adapted for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the future.

MSC says that ocean shipping is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of cargo transportation, producing lower CO2 emissions per unit carried than other forms of freight transportation such as planes, trucks or even barges and trains. This of course depends on how much of a vessel’s capacity is taken up on each voyage coupled with counting on a return leg, when we often see empty containers making up a sizeable part of the cargo manifest.

MSC Gülsün’s improved energy efficiency and fuel economy ensure that MSC is on track to meet international 2030 environmental policy targets set by the IMO ahead of time, building on a 13% improvement in CO2 emissions per tonne of cargo moved already achieved across the MSC fleet between 2015 and 2018.

The recent cooperation between the major lines to co-load vessels, the Gülsün was travelling on the Asia - Europe (SILK/ NEU2) service loop of the 2M alliance network, coupled with slower steaming to extend time on the water and reduce fuel usage, has meant more of each of the new breed of mega carriers’ capacity is being taken up on every voyage, thus reducing both fuel and emissions factors per box shipped.

Fully freighted the MSC ship carries as much cargo as 1,358 Boeing 747s, 44 of the new breed of ‘long’ trains or over 14,000 HGVs. MSC has on order in total eleven of the new class of ship, all constructed in South Korea, six from the Geoje yard of Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) which built the Gülsün and five more from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME).

With an eye on the blossoming trade in pharmaceuticals, as well as chilled and frozen foodstuffs, the ship has over 2,000 reefer points for temperature-controlled items. The technological advances however are not just aimed at saving money, with MSC saying crew and cargo safety are the privately-owned company’s No. 1 priority.

Each of this new class of ships is equipped with double hull protection around the engine, as well as a 3D hull condition assessment program. A new dual-tower fire-fighting system with high-capacity pumps has been installed to further enhance the safety of seafarers on board and protect cargo carried across the whole deck of the ship.

Fire has not been a friend to ships bearing the MSC logo historically, the MSC Canberra was attacked in Haifa harbour when targeted by an arsonist stowaway in June 2019, in April an electrical fire in crew quarters caused problems for the MSC Samantha, whilst In July 2012 fire aboard the MSC Flaminia in mid-Atlantic cost the lives of three crew, a tragedy blamed on misdeclared cargo. The container lines recently announced penalties for this offence after a series of such incidents.

The sight of a vessel longer than the Empire State building is tall, carrying over 20,000 twenty-foot boxes from the Far East to Europe, would have literally been inconceivable a generation or so ago. Now, with the advances made by MSC and the other carriers, the shipping industry has changed its image from that of smoky tramp steamers burning coal as they steamed their ponderous way from coast to coast, to these new leviathans providing a vital lifeline for the ever hungrier and more numerous consumers across the world.

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