UASC firms up ten ultra large vessels at Hyundai Heavy

The United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) and Hyundai Heavy Industries today firmed up ten of the 17 letters of intend for new container ships, which the carrier signed at the South Korean yard earlier this year.

The Kuwait-headquartered carrier converted into firm orders five of its six loi’s for +18,000 teu vessels and five of its ten loi’s for +14,000 teu ships. UASC thus retains options for one more +18,000 teu unit and another five +14,000 teu vessels.

Since UASC has increased its cooperation with the Chinese carrier CSCL in recent years, and since CSCL placed orders for five 18,400 teu ships in May, the UASC quintet and the CSCL ships are expected to be intended for a joint Far East to Europe loop of the two carriers.

Between them, CSCL and UASC would dispose of a fleet of ten similarly-sized superjumbos. This number would rise to 11 if UASC decides to convert its final option at Hyundai. The number of ships would allow the carriers to fully staff one weekly ultra-large service on the Asia to Europe trade lane.

The CSCL ships are scheduled to come on stream from late 2014 and the UASC vessels are scheduled for delivery in 2015.

The five +14,000 teu ships that UASC firmed up are also scheduled for delivery in 2015. They will add to a fleet of nine 13,296 teu ships that UASC ordered at Samsung in 2008. Originally scheduled for delivery in 2010, many of these ships were deferred by up to two years and the final unit did not come on stream until May 2012.

Unlike UASC’s first set of jumbo vessels, which were still designed in a pre-slow steaming environment, the new ships will be custom-built slow-steamers with bulkier hulls and smaller main engines to increase efficiency.

UASC also revealed that its latest newbuildings will be designed for easy conversion to natural gas propulsion. This means that the ships’ engines will be able to burn both heavy fuel oil and natural gas and that the design allows the retroffitting of LNG tanks. Once a sufficient number of ports will offer LNG bunkering infrastructure, and once there is a business case for natural gas as ship fuel, the ships can be converted accordingly ‘within a few weeks’.

On an interesting side note, UASC recently mentioned capacities for its newbuildings that differ slightly from the teu intake figures circulated in official releases. In an interview, company CEO Jorn Hinge referred to the newbuildings as 18,800 teu and 14,500 teu units. This would make UASC’s  super jumbo quintet the largest container ships in the world: Some 530 teu bigger than Maersk Line’s tripe-E class jumbos – the current record holders.

USAC will pay a total of USD 1,389 million for the ten ships, which suggests a price of about USD 154 million for each of the +18,000 teu ships and about USD 124 million for the +14,000 teu units.

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