Atlantic Container Line’s order for five multipurpose ships last August didn’t attract much attention beyond the ro-ro industry, but the impact of the vessels on ro-ro shipping will be as great as that of Maersk Line’s 18,000-TEU Triple E behemoths on container shipping. And, the ACL ships, due to join the Westfield, N.J.-based carrier’s fleet in 2015, are also likely to cause a few ripples in the containerized business as the world’s biggest ro-ro/container units.
The so-called G4 vessels, which are capable of carrying wheeled as well as containerized cargo, also testify to ACL’s successful business model, because their ro-ro and container capacities are much higher than those of the five iconic G3 ships they’re replacing. The G3s themselves have defied repeated forecasts of their demise since they entered service on the North Atlantic in 1984 and 1985.
The new ships look more like a container ship than a conventional ro-ro vessel because of their configuration and the location of the rolling cargo decks.
The 45,000-deadweight-ton vessels will have a capacity of 3,800 20-foot equivalent units, stacked 14 high, 764 ro-ro units and 1,307 automobiles. This compares with 1,850 TEUs, stacked 11 high, 525 ro-ro units and 1,000 autos available on the G3s. The G4 also will have more capacity for oversize units, boosting ACL’s cargo base.
ACL hasn’t revealed the cost of the five G4s, but years spent considering potential designs paid off as they were ordered when shipyards were slashing quotes to win business in a depressed market. ACL, a subsidiary of Italy’s Grimaldi Group since 2007, is financing 40 percent of the order from its own pocket.
Unlike other ro-ro/container ships, which carry boxes on deck and ro-ro freight below deck, the new vessels don’t require ballast because the ro-ro cargo is located mid-ship and the boxes are stowed in cells aft and fore of the ro-ro space.
The new vessels, which will be much more fuel efficient than the G3s, will allow ACL to expand its route network to a new South Atlantic port starting in 2015.
Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.