Tailor-made for the new canal: Hapag-Lloyd’s “Valparaiso Express” class vessels
The new, expanded Panama Canal is set to open soon. Hapag-Lloyd is preparing for the event by optimizing its fleet. Here, we show you what these new ships will look like.
The new Panama Canal will usher in a new era in shipping between South America and Europe. Starting soon, huge vessels of the post-Panamax class - capable of carrying up to 14,000 20-foot standard containers (TEU) - will be able to navigate this important trade route. Until now, the upper limit has been just a bit below 5,000 TEU. In light of these changes, already in April 2015, Hapag-Lloyd ordered five new vessels, which are supposed to be predominantly employed along South American routes . With a length of 333 meters, a beam of 48 meters and a capacity of 10,500 TEU, the vessels in the new "Valparaiso Express" class are tailor-made for the expanded locks and channels of the canal.
The five new ships are currently being built in South Korea by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries. In early March, the first steel cutting was performed in the shipyard. Going forward, the steel plates for the ship will be fitted and assembled into modules weighing up to 1,000 metric tons. Then, in a very brief period of time, the hulls will be welded together out of these prefabricated parts in the shipyard's building docks. The finished ships will then be delivered between the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017.
Still, the ideal size of these ships is not the only competitive advantage Hapag-Lloyd plans to gain from them. One outstanding feature of the new vessels is their very high reefer capacity, as each of them has room for more than 2,100 of these temperature-controlled containers. "We expect reefer exports from South America to increase," says Hapag-Lloyd Chief Operating Officer Anthony J. Firmin in underlining the importance of these special boxes. Products such as bananas, avocados, deep-frozen fish and grapes will fill the reefers on the journey from the west coast of South America to Europe. Going in the other direction will primarily be deep-frozen french fries, onions, potatoes, frozen vegetables and pharmaceutical products.
The design and technology of the state-of-the-art newbuildings also promise cost advantages and improvements in operational efficiency. For example, the hull has been optimized for the special load and speed profiles in the South America trade. The 46,530-horsepower main engine is particularly fuel-efficient and boasts an emissions-reducing valve control. An innovative lashing and loading system guarantees greater flexibility when loading. Indeed, with these five new ships, Hapag-Lloyd may be able to expand its leading role in Latin American traffic. "Whoever acts in the right way and uses their capacities optimally will have a big advantage," COO Firmin confidently states.