The China Navigation Company Limited (CNCo), the deep-sea ship owning arm of the Swire group, has announced that it has signed an agreement with Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry for six multipurpose (MPP) vessels to be delivered from mid-2011 onwards, with an option for up to six more ships for delivery from mid-2012. The agreement was signed at Shanghai on June 19th and the ships ordered, representing an investment of approximately US$360 million for CNCo, will be amongst the largest MPPs in operation at 40,000 deadweight tons and a nominal container capacity of 2,321 teus (standard container units). Their dimensions will be 199.8 meters (length overall) by 32.2 meters beam. CNCo has developed the design in close partnership with Shanghai Merchant Ship Design and Research Institute (SDARI), and intends that the ships will be employed in the trades of its liner operating subsidiary Swire Shipping Limited.

Richard Kendall, CNCo’s Managing Director, said: “With over a decade since China Navigation placed its last newbuilding order, this is a significant occasion for us. We have dedicated a lot of resources to designing a ship that combines capability for the cargoes we carry in our trades with flexibility for a range of future deployments. We have also focused on the environmental efficiency of the vessel - an increasingly important aspect of any logistical investment today. In all of these areas we believe our vessel will set a new benchmark within the multipurpose sector.” He added: “With this order, CNCo will be able to reduce its reliance on chartered-in tonnage for developing its existing trades. Longer-term, we will be seeking to build more new ships as part of our ongoing fleet replacement program.”

The design comprises a five-hold, nine-hatch configuration and the ships will each have four cranes, with a maximum lift capability of 250 tons.

Fuel efficiency has been a key criterion for CNCo. Engine selection and hull form design will enable the fully loaded ship to run at around 16 knots, consuming about 40 tons of fuel a day, or at 14.5 knots on 30 tons of fuel per day; at its slightly lighter optimum design draft, the ship will burn 29 tons of fuel a day at 15.5 knots. Other environmental features include the use of cutting-edge technology to increase the hydrodynamics and efficiency of the propeller, and the latest paint systems, designed to produce a smoother surface and better coefficient of friction; these design features will reduce the fuel burnt across the ship’s range of operating speeds and increase its maximum speed.

Ji Fenghua, Chairman of Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry said: “As a recently-established shipyard in China, benefiting from modern equipment, experienced management, a predominantly directly employed workforce, good health and safety practices and a fast expanding building capacity, we have ambitious expansion plans. We are delighted to welcome CNCo and the Swire Group as a customer of our shipyard, and have every confidence in our ability to produce a first class series of ships for them”.