Perhaps the biggest talking point for container ships since Maersk’s 'Triple E' design was unveiled in 2011, CMA CGM Jacques Saadé may eventually be eclipsed in size but will always be able to claim the title of the world’s first LNG-powered ultra large container ship (ULCS). So it should come as no surprise that it's one of the vessels included in RINA's Significant Ships of 2020 publication, which will be published later this month.
French operator CMA CGM originally signed the contract for the ship and its eight sisters with China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) in September 2017, with the work being split across subsidiaries Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Ltd. (five vessels) and Shanghai Jiangnan-Changxing Shipbuilding (four vessels). Delivery of the series was supposed to commence in November 2019, but neither yard had great experience in building vessels with two-stroke LNG propulsion systems and it seems likely this contributed to delays, which were then further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
CMA CGM Jacques Saadé was finally delivered by Hudong-Zhonghua on 22 September 2020, with Shanghai Jiangnan-Changxing delivering the next vessel, CMA CGM Champs Elysees, a month later. To date, four ships have entered service. The series was designed by the Marine Design and Research Institute of China (MARIC).
With its length a shade under 400m, beam of 61.3m and moulded depth of 33.5m, CMA CGM Jacques Saadé has a total capacity of 23,112TEU of which 13,328TEU are on deck and 9,784TEU under deck. CMA CGM boasts that the vessel's "outstanding design" means that it is possible to stack containers of over 10tonnes in a 10-high stack. During the ship's maiden call at Singapore in October 2020, a world record 20,723 "full containers" were loaded in a process consisting of some 4,000 separate crane loading and unloading movements (before commencing a 13-call journey to Europe). However, as with all container ships, the total capacity is significantly reduced when using a homogenous loading of 14tonnes per TEU. Under this measure, capacity falls to 14,180TEU at scantling draught of 16m. There are 2,200 electric points for reefer boxes. Cargo loading ability has been optimised using specifically designed lashing bridges and a loose lashing system.
But, of course, it's the choice of LNG as fuel that has been the main talking point for CMA CGM Jacques Saadé ever since its first announcement. While other boxship operators, such as Hapag-Lloyd, have since opted for LNG, the majority of orders for similar sized newbuildings still favour HFO and scrubbers as doubts persist about gas. By contrast, CMA CGM has strengthened its commitment and expects to have 26 dual-fuelled containerships by 2022, including the series of six 14,806 TEU ships currently being built at the Hyundai Samho shipyard in South Korea.
CMA CGM Jacques Saadé is powered by a single WinGD 12X92DF dual-fuel engine, rated at 63,840kW, which utilises WinGD's successful X-DF low-pressure concept for propulsion. Weighing in at 2,140tonnes, in January, following tests carried out by engine builder CSSC-MES Diesel Co, it was officially declared by Guinness World Records to be the most powerful marine internal combustion engine (Otto cycle) commercially available. The vessel could also run on VLSFO or MDO, but the owner has specified a large 18,762m³ GTT Mark III tank for LNG, allowing the ship to complete a Far East - Europe round trip on one bunkering. By contrast, the HFO tank would only provide for 10 or 11 days of sailing. It is linked to a 10.1m diameter propeller rotating at 80rpm, granting a service speed of 21.97knots at 90% MCR.
Even the vessel's inaugural bunkering represented a landmark, a 16-hour operation at the Port of Rotterdam in November 2020 involving another of last year's newbuilds, Gas Agility, itself the world's largest LNG bunkering ship and specially built to service the anticipated next generation of ULCS's.