The world’s largest container vessel, HMM Algeciras, has been launched in South Korea in the midst of challenging times for the shipping industry.
The 24,000 20ft-equivalent-unit (TEU) containership was launched at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering’s (DSME) Okpo shipyard in Geoje.
HMM Algeciras, named after the Spanish port city, is the first of 12 24,000 TEU-class vessels scheduled to be delivered by September 2020.
Measuring 400 metres, it is longer than the Empire State Building laid on its side.
HMM, formerly Hyundai Merchant Marine, signed a formal contract for the mega container vessels with three shipyards – DSME, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI).
The vessels are equipped with a scrubber system that removes particulate matter and harmful elements, such as sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides, from the exhaust.
Korean president Moon Jae-in said: “For me, it is very meaningful that HMM takes delivery of the most technologically advanced containership in this difficult time. I would… hope that HMM continues to secure a competitive advantage as a Korean national flagship carrier.”
The ship will be deployed on Far East to Europe routes which traverse Qingdao, Busan, Ningbo, Shanghai, Yantian, the Suez Canal, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp, London Gateway and Singapore.
The launch comes at a time of crisis for the shipping industry, which is in free fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Exports of Chinese manufactured goods are still not picking up according to a report by BIMCO, one of the largest shippers’ organisations.
Container ships began to see excess capacity when Chinese lockdowns began to disrupt exports in February and idle container capacity remains at around 10%, it said.
There is little hope of a shipping industry rebound in 2020 and the only consolation for shipping firms are low oil prices, which are easing operating expenses for ships.
Shipbroker Intermodal said: “The global crisis that hit the world over the last four months will seriously shrink the world’s economic growth and damage financial stability leaving a deep negative imprint on the already disturbed shipping industry.”