CMA CGM plans to add more mega-size 24,000-teu container ships to its fleet.

According to shipbuilding sources, the French line is eyeing an order of between five and 10 newbuildings costing at least $2.4bn.

It is said to have approached major shipyards in South Korea and China, including Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, Samsung Heavy Industries, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

CMA CGM, which already has four LNG dual-fuel 24,000-teu vessels under construction at Shanghai’s Hudong-Zhonghua, is said to be looking to have the next batch powered by methanol dual-fuel engines.

Shipbuilding brokers said it has become increasingly difficult for companies to get shipyards to offer early delivery slots due to their strong orderbooks.

They reckon CMA CGM will probably have to wait until 2026 and 2027 to take delivery of this new batch of newbuildings — if it orders them.

“Some shipyards may not participate in CMA CGM’s 24,000-teu newbuildings project as the ship type is too large and it takes up too much dry-dock space,” said a shipbuilding expert.

“Shipyards [are] racing to build as many ships as possible under this current hot market. They want to optimise their dry docks and prefer high-value smaller vessels such as the 16,000-teu container ships or LNG carriers.”

CMA CGM would be the third liner company to opt for methanol dual-fuel propulsion for ultra-large container ships.

China Cosco Shipping’s Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) and Cosco Shipping Lines leapt into methanol fuelling last year.

OOCL ordered seven 24,000-teu ships at Nantong Cosco KHI Ship Engineering for delivery between late 2026 and mid-2028, while Cosco Shipping Lines has five similar size vessels being built at Dalian Cosco KHI Ship Engineering for delivery between February 2027 and June 2028.

OOCL and Cosco Shipping Lines were reported to be paying nearly $240m per boxship.

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network shows the orderbook for ULCs of 23,000 teu and 24,000 teu stands at 62 units. Twenty-one are LNG dual-fuel vessels, 12 are methanol dual-fuel and the rest are conventionally fuelled and fitted with scrubbers.

Four of the 21 LNG dual-fuel ULCs are CMA CGM’s, ordered at the end of last year at a reported price of at least $250m each.

Hudong-Zhonghua is building the quartet and is scheduled to deliver them in 2025 and 2026.

In February, CMA CGM splashed out $1.05bn on a series of methanol-powered 15,000-teu newbuildings. It commissioned Jiangnan Shipyard to build six vessels to be delivered between 2025 and 2026.

Including the six Jiangnan newbuildings, CMA CGM has a total of 24 methanol-powered large container ships on order: six 15,000-teu vessels at China’s Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co and a dozen 13,000-teu vessels at Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries in South Korea.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding is one of the shipyards that has been approached by CMA CGM for the ULC newbuildings. Photo: Yangzijiang Shipbuilding