The fact that box ships are getting bigger and bigger, is not new. If you aren’t a seafarer, categorizations such as 12,000 TEU loading capacity, 16,000 or even 18,000 steel boxes moored on a vessel, are initially abstract numbers. But when you stand in front of a 399.9-meter-long, 61-meter-wide, and 76-meter-high colossus that can carry 23,600 TEU per voyage – as is the core data describing the ‘Berlin Express’ – the impression is overwhelming. It is deepened during a tour of the ship followed by a visit to the bridge.
The ‘Berlin Express’ is Hapag-Lloyd's newest and largest ship to date, and at the same time the most massive ever to sail on behalf of a German shipping line. Last Tuesday (03OCT23), it was ceremoniously christened in its home port of Hamburg by Elke Büdenbender, the spouse of German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and thus Germany's First Lady.
“I wish you a safe journey all the time and always a hand's breadth of water under your keel,” were her words before she broke a line to which a champagne bottle was attached, which then swung forward, crashed at the ship’s side and burst. It was her first ship christening, she confessed.
“It's very exciting and just overwhelming,” she told CargoForwarder Global. “When looking at this vessel, I also think of the people who are on duty there day and night, weeks, if not months, away from their homes and loved ones, assuring that this ship can sail safely through the oceans.” The crew consists of 27 members, mostly Filipinos, including the two captains, Michael Kowitz (52), and Karsten Metzner (49).
Selecting the 03OCT23 for the naming ceremony was no incident because every year on that day, Germany celebrates the reunification of West and East, and this time the celebration was hosted by the City of Hamburg. When fully loaded with steel boxes, the value of goods carried averages two billion euros per trip, said a representative of the shipping company on the sidelines of the naming ceremony. The maximum speed is 22 kn, the equivalent of 40.7 kph. This means that if it were to pass through Hamburg's city center, it would be flashed by radar traps, because the speed limit for vehicles is 30 km/h on most streets leading through the downtown area.
11 more are to follow
Built in South Korea at the Hanwha Ocean shipyard (formerly Daewoo Ship Building & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd.), the box ship will be deployed on routes between Western Europe and the Far East. It will be followed by 11 similar vessels belonging to the so-called ‘Hamburg Class’, such as the "Manila Express", "Singapore Express", "Rotterdam Express" or "Hamburg Express" as the seventh ship of the order. They will be successively delivered to Hapag-Lloyd until 2025, and will significantly increase the shipping line's transport capacity.
The Berlin Express reduces Hapag-Lloyd’s CO2 footprint
Hons and officials speaking at the event particularly highlighted the issue of climate protection. The 12 vessels belonging to the Hamburg Express class are equipped with a dual fuel propulsion system and are predominantly powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). This way, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by up to 25% and soot emissions even by 95%. In addition, advanced components such as an optimized hull and a highly efficient propeller, will help the vessels to reduce fuel consumption and thereby CO2 emissions. Once available in abundant quantities, they are also able to burn non-fossil fuels such as bio-methane and e-methane, and thereby generate hardly any CO2 emissions. “Not only because of its imposing size, but also because of innovative technology, automation, digitalization and, last but not least, sustainability aspects, we are advancing into the Champions League of container shipping thanks to the Hamburg Class,” Hapag-Lloyd CEO, Rolf Habben Jansen proudly emphasized in his welcoming speech. He reiterated the goal of CO2 neutrality for his fleet for 2045. Currently, Hapag-Lloyd operates 285 vessels. Richard von Berlepsch, Managing Director Fleet, added: “It is no longer sufficient to transport goods safely from A to B. This must also be done in a climate friendly fashion.”
Hamburg's First Mayor, Peter Tschentscher, called the option of being able to operate Hamburg-class ships with e-fuels “ promise for the future. Being ahead of the pack when it comes to decarbonization, is a key competitive advantage,” he said.
This matches the celebration’s motto: “Opening Horizons.” A perspective not only for the maritime industry, “but for each and every one of us,” stressed First Lady, Ms. Büdenbender. Digitalization, automation, mechanization of maritime transport, all of this is beneficial, she said. But in the end, it is still people who navigate a ship and open new horizons.
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