CMA CGM has put pen to paper on an order for four LNG dual-fuel 24,000-teu container ship newbuildings worth at least $1bn.

Shipbuilding sources following the French liner giant’s newbuilding activities said it has contracted China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding for the mega-size vessels to be delivered in 2025 and 2026.

CMA CGM is believed to be paying at least $250m each for the ships.

Officials at Hudong-Zhonghua declined to comment on its newbuilding activities, citing contract confidentiality. CMA CGM could not be immediately reached for comment.

The order comes as the container ship market is softening. Newbuilding brokers said enquiries for boxships have fallen significantly in recent weeks but there is still interest from some big liners that have deep pockets. They are said to be checking prices with a view to investing in new tonnage under fleet renewal programmes.

“They need to reinvest the huge profits they have made, which would otherwise end up being taxed,” a broker explained.

Last month, Chinese shipping giant Cosco Shipping Holdings’ subsidiaries Cosco Shipping Lines and Orient Overseas Container Line ordered a dozen methanol dual-fuel 24,000-teu ships worth $2.89bn, about $240m each.

The newbuildings were booked at Sino-Japanese shipyards — Nantong Cosco KHI Ship Engineering and Dalian Cosco KHI Ship Engineering.

Shipbuilding sources said the four newbuildings that CMA CGM has ordered at Hudong-Zhonghua are part of the 16 new container ship series — 10 dual-fuelled LNG vessels and six methanol dual-fuel ships — that it disclosed in June that it would order.

At the time, CMA CGM said the newbuildings would be part of a strategy to diversify its energy mix and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In August, the owner was reported to have picked Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co over shipyards in South Korea to build six 15,000-teu methanol dual-fuel vessels.

Attractive price

An attractive price of about $175m per vessel and a preferred delivery window were cited as the reasons behind the choice of yard.

The sextet, to be delivered in the second half of 2025, is the first order of methanol-powered vessels for the French company, which has so far focused on LNG-fuelled ships.

The remaining six LNG dual-fuel newbuildings are 8,000-teu boxships. Brokers said CMA CGM has yet to decide on a shipyard, although it was reported to have signed a letter of intent with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries in June.

Shipbuilding sources said CMA CGM’s order for the 24,000-teu vessels was the first boxship deal for Hudong-Zhonghua this year. The Shanghai shipyard has been busy concluding LNG carrier contracts.

It has so far contracted 17 LNG carrier newbuildings: five linked to Middle East producer QatarEnergy’s project and six each for Japanese shipowners Mitsui OSK Lines and NYK Lines for a charter from China National Offshore Oil Corp.

CMA CGM’s four newbuildings are the first container ship contract for Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in 2022. Photo: Jonathan Boonzaier