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MSC sets record as 1st ocean carrier to hit 5 mil TEU in fleet capacity

In a groundbreaking milestone for the global shipping industry, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has emerged as the first ocean carrier to surpass a staggering 5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) in fleet capacity, as confirmed by analysts at Alphaliner.

Image credit GSI

The impressive feat highlights MSC’s meteoric rise in recent years, as the shipping giant accomplished this remarkable growth from 4 million TEU to 5 million TEU in a mere 22 months. Notably, MSC has effectively doubled the size of its fleet in just eight and a half years, solidifying its position as a prominent force within the maritime sector.

 Alphaliner’s calculations show that MSC purchased 306 containerships with a capacity of 1.2 million TEU since August 2020, basically buying any ship the company could get its hands on.

It is important to note that while the fleet capacity has expanded significantly, MSC’s actual transport capacity has experienced a more moderate growth trajectory. This divergence arises from the evolving dynamics within the shipping industry, where vessels have adopted slower steaming speeds compared to two decades ago. This adjustment reflects the industry-wide commitment to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing environmental sustainability.

The Swiss-based container shipping giant MSC has the largest orderbook by far in the industry with around 130 containerships on order including the latest contract.

Namely, in January 2023 MSC placed an order for ten LNG-fuelled boxships with Zhoushan Changhong, a joint venture between privately-owned Jiangsu Xin Chang Jiang Group and state-owned China International Marine Containers Group (CIMC).

The ten 11,500 TEU vessels have been designed by CIMC’s subsidiary CIMC Ocean Engineering Design and Research Institute (CIMC ORIC). The delivery of the newbuilds will be spread between 2025 and 2026.

Aside from the dual-fuel propulsion, enabling the vessels to run on both LNG and conventional fuel, the ships will also adopt the most-advanced ammonia-ready design.

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The company’s relentless fleet build-up has seen the delivery of five 24,000 TEU-class vessels since the beginning of this year.

Namely, Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding has delivered the giant 24,116 TEU MSC Tessa and MSC Celestino Maresca to MSC. The 24K vessels delivered to MSC also include MSC Raya, MSC Irina, and MSC Loreto.

The ships are the world’s largest container ships based on their carrying capacity.

MSC is scheduled to receive a whopping 33 neopanamax and megamax ships this year. Presumably, MSC will try to channel much of its fleet growth into new standalone loops outside of the 2M as the carrier prepares for the end of the VSA with Maersk in late 2024, according to Alphaliner.

Data from the market analyst indicates that with around 127 ships with a capacity of 1.66 million TEU, MSC seems to be on a trajectory to hit 6.75 million TEU in two years, if no older tonnage is scrapped.

However, Alphaliner expects MSC to shrink its smaller tonnage under 8,000 TEU and stabilize at around 6 million TEU.