CMA CGM Opts for LNG Fuel to Power Record-Breaking ‘Megaships’

cma cgm benjamin franklin
Pictured: CMA CGM’s 18,000 TEU Benjamin Franklin. Credit: CMA CGM

French shipping giant CMA CGM has opted for LNG fuel to power its 9 record-breaking 22,000 TEU containerships due for delivery in 2020.

In doing so, the company is the first shipping company to equip the so-called ‘megaships’ with engines using liquefied natural gas (LNG).

CMA CGM announced the decision on Tuesday to coincide with the United Nation’s COP23 conference on climate change being held in Bonn, Germany. The company said the decision is in-line with its firm commitment to the protection of the environment and to ocean conservation.

Between 2005 and 2015, CMA CGM says it has reduced its CO2 emissions per container transported by 50% and it has set up an ambitious plan to further reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% between 2015 and 2025.

“We have made the bold decision to equip our future 22,000 TEUs vessels with a technology firmly focused on the protection of the environment,” said Rodolphe Saadé, CMA CGM Group CEO. “By choosing LNG, CMA CGM confirms its ambition to be a leading force in the industry in environmental protection by being a pioneer in innovative and eco-responsible technologies.”

By using LNG fuel over heavy fuel oil, the ships will emit up to 25% less CO2 and nearly eliminate all sulfur and fine particle emissions, along with 85% less nitrogen oxides emissions. Moreover, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which measures a ship’s environmental footprint, is improved by 20% compared to ships powered exclusively by fuel oil.

In terms of design, CMA CGM says the ships will be built with 18,000 m3 LNG fuel tanks to be housed under the front arrangements and the upper deck will used as the LNG management and control center.

This illustration shows the location of the LNG tanks.

CMA CGM signed shipbuilding contracts with China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) Group for the nine record-breaking ships in September following months of rumors about the order. The nine vessels will be constructed at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group), Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding, and China Shipbuilding Trading Co. (CSTC), all three of which of which are part of CSSC.

The decision to use LNG fuel comes ahead of upcoming global regulations aimed at reducing the maximum sulphur content of maritime fuel from 3.5% to 0.5% by 2020.

“The use of LNG by large containerships is an emerging market aiming for significant growth. The new regulations on Sulfur emissions that will be in effect in 2020 are changing the rules and are opening the door to new solutions,” commented Farid Trad, CMA CGM’s Head of Bunkering.

CMA CGM said that in order to supply LNG fuel for the ships, it has committed to the development of LNG infrastructure, including the development of large bunker barges in ports where its ships call.

“The new supply chains set up by CMA CGM Groups, the ports and the LNG suppliesrs will open the door to larger use of LNG, in particular by other sectors of maritime transport,” the company said.