Shipbuilders are fielding enquiries for more than 60 container ship newbuildings despite falls in charter rates, but owners’ and operators’ fuelling choices are diversifying.

Newbuilding sources named at least six big-name shipowners and liner companies — CMA CGM, Evergreen Marine, Yang Ming Marine Transport and HMM, as well as tonnage providers MPC Container Ships and Seaspan Corp — as being in talks with yards for boxships varying in size between feeder vessels of 2,000 teu and neo-panamaxes of 15,000 teu.

They cited fleet renewal programmes and the incoming Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) ratings as among the factors driving demand for newbuildings, coupled with the excess cash that liner companies are sitting on following the boom in business over the past two years.

Those seeking berths have different requirements on fuelling choices: some are looking at scrubbers, others are chasing dual-fuel LNG or methanol ships.

The sources said Taiwan’s Evergreen is looking for up to 20 units of 15,000 teu each — 10 firm ships and 10 options. It is also chasing a series of 2,000-teu or 3,000-teu feeder boxships.

Evergreen, which has close to 50 conventionally fuelled boxships of between 1,800 teu and 24,000 teu under construction in China and South Korea, has not taken the plunge on any dual-fuel vessels. But it is said to be showing interest in methanol for these upcoming newbuildings.

“Evergreen’s vessels are all powered by conventional marine fuel,” one shipping source said. “The company is concerned about how the CII ratings will affect its current fleet.”

Semi-state-owned Yang Ming, which launched a request for offers to build five LNG dual-fuel, 15,000-teu container ship newbuildings in August, is said to be shortlisting shipyards and is expected to finalise a yard to build the vessels early in 2023.

“These five newbuildings are to replace chartered vessels that Yang Ming took from Seaspan,” the source said. “The contracts for the chartered ships are expiring soon.”

Like Evergreen, Yang Ming is showing interest in feeder vessels of 2,000 teu — at least 10 of them.

French liner giant CMA CGM, which recently joined AP Moller-Maersk in opting for methanol as a fuel for six 15,000-teu newbuildings at Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co, disclosed that it will be spending a further $1bn on the green vessels without naming the shipyard or delivery schedule.

TradeWinds has also learned that MPC Container Ships and Seaspan are seeking four 8,000-teu vessels each. The companies are said to be looking at methanol as the fuel choice.

There has been a rise this year in interest in methanol as an alternative fuel for newbuildings. But questions are being asked about pricing and availability in its green form, and how its energy density will affect the trading range of vessels.

South Korea’s HMM is also listed as among those looking at 8,000-teu ships. But it is said to remain undecided about whether to opt for conventional or dual-fuelling for the nine ships it requires.

Shipbrokers said yards with the capacity to build these ships are sitting on packed orderbooks, and prices will probably remain firm. However, smaller Chinese yards might lower their prices for feeder ships if they have early slots to fill.

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