Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC)’s appetite for container ship newbuildings continues unabated. Having previously splashed out close to $2.5bn on 20 units of 8,000 teu, the liner giant is turning its attention to bigger vessels of 12,000 teu or 14,000 teu.

Several shipbuilding sources said MSC is looking to order up to 10 LNG dual-fuelled newbuildings.

Chinese state-owned Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS) and Singapore-listed Yangzijiang Shipbuilding are said to be the only two Chinese shipyards that MSC has approached for the newbuildings.

Officials at SWS and Yangzijiang declined to comment when contacted, while MSC said it is the company’s policy not to comment on the specifics of its newbuilding pipeline.

Shipbuilding sources said with rising material costs and limited berth spaces, the 12,000-teu ship would cost in excess of $150m while the 14,000-teu unit would fetch around $180m.

One shipping source describes the container vessels of 12,000 teu and 14,000 teu as “flexible to trade”. He said they can be deployed in almost every service route except Asia to North Europe.

Meanwhile, shipbuilding sources said MSC holds an option to upsize four of the 14 compact LNG dual-fuel 8,000-teu container ship newbuildings that it recently inked at New Times Shipbuilding to 11,400 teu.

“If MSC is to switch the 8,000-teu newbuildings to 11,400-teu ships, it would give the shipyard a chance to increase the vessels’ price,” said a shipbuilding observer. “Shipyards are pushing for price increases as shipbuilding material costs are rising faster than newbuilding prices.”

MSC was reported to have paid New Times in excess of $120m each for the boxships, which will be fitted with type-B tanks. The shipyard is scheduled to deliver the newbuildings in 2025.

A day after signing the 20 boxships at the Jiangsu-based shipyard, MSC ordered six LNG dual-fuel 7,900-teu vessels at Hyundai Heavy Industries for delivery in the first half of 2025. The sextet was reported to cost $134m apiece.

Shipbuilding sources said MSC needs a total of 28 newbuildings of the compact neo-panamax design. It was supposed to order the remaining eight vessels at Qingdao Beihai Heavy Industry. However, the deal did not take place.

They said the board of directors at China State Shipbuilding Corp did not give approval to the project as Qingdao Beihai does not have the experience in building LNG dual-fuel container vessels.

“Qingdao Beihai’s dry dock is not wide enough to accommodate the construction of the two vessels simultaneously,” said a shipbuilding source. “MSC’s 8,000-teus are wide-beam vessels. We think MSC will be chartering the ships from tonnage suppliers.”

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network shows close to 120 newbuildings of this ship type are booked at yards in China and South Korea for delivery from next year to 2025.

Dubbed the future workhorse of the sector, the ship size is in strong demand as it is flexible enough to trade from Far East Asia to the Middle East, as well as on north-south trades. As such, they are expected to replace existing vessels of between 4,000 teu and 5,000 teu.

Mediterranean Shipping Co holds an option to upsize four 8,000-teu newbuildings at New Times Shipbuilding to 11,400-teu ships. Photo: New Times Shipbuilding