Maersk Line cargo ship unloading containers in Ports of Auckland New Zealand
Engineers Innovation Shipping Technology

A look at the Triple E Class

The Danish shipping giant Maersk has just placed into service the 31st of its Triple E class vessels in January 2019. South Korea’s Daewoo has been constructing these fleet of giant container vessels with a carrying capacity of 18,000 TEU, since the first of this class came into service in 2013, the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.

Each of these estimated $190 million fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vessels are some 399.2 metres long and 59 metres wide. Thus making them bigger than the aircraft carrier the 341 metres long USS Enterprise and the 360-metre cruise ship the Allure of the Seas. 

The Triple E has a beam of 59 metres, making them too wide to use the Panama Canal locks. Although the Suez Canal width at 205 metres makes it wide enough for the Triple E class vessels to pass through.

This class of vessels is designed for the Europe to China route, with a crew of just 13 and a top cruise speed of 23 knots.

By Slawos - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
MV Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller

Triple E Class Ports

For port operators, the Maersk EEE vessels are proving a challenge having containers stacked 23 rows wide across the deck, whilst most existing ports are equipped with the current post-Panamax cranes with a 22-container row wide vessel reach. The following ports have the handling capacity to tackle the unloading of Tripe E class vessels, these are:

  • In Asia, the Chinese ports of Shanghai, Ningbo, Xiamen, Qingdao, Yantian, Hong Kong, Tanjung Pelepas.
  • Plus the South Asian ports of Singapore and Colombo.
  • In Europe the ports of Rotterdam, Gothenburg, Wilhelmshaven, Bremerhaven, Southampton, London Gateway, Le Havre, Felixstowe, Gdansk, Antwerp and Algeciras.

For instance, APM Terminals Rotterdam Maasvlakte container terminal has eight remote-controlled super-Post Panamax cranes, each with a 25-container wide reach.

Copyright: <a href="">roeltimmermans / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
container crane port

 The Triple E Class Design

The name “Triple E class” stands for economy of scale, energy efficient and environmentally improved. Like many container ship designs the bridge and accommodation area are in the forward section of the vessel, while the engine room and chimney are towards the rear, to create extra container space.

Engine Room and propulsion

The Maersk Triple-E class vessel uses two slow running MAN diesel ultra-long stroke engines, with each engine powering a separate propeller. Each engine produces 43,000hp and weighs 910t and uses 168g bunker oil per kWh produced.

The engine drives a propeller with a diameter of 9.8m, with four blades. In comparison, a London double-decker bus is some 4.5 metres in height. Having such large blades maximises a vessel’s pushing power, whilst having so few blades reduces water resistance.

In addition, each vessels engine room has a $10 million waste heat recovery system installed to use the exhaust gas from the engines to power two 3MW generators. The power from the generators can prove useful in supplying added power for propulsion or electricity for keeping cool heat sensitive cargoes when the vessel crosses the hot climates of the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.

Equipment suppliers

Apart from the German-supplied MAN engines, manufactures supplied the following components for the Maersk Tripel E class. These include:

  • Mecklenburger Metallguss supplied the propellers.
  • Siemens provided the SGM and power generation systems Waste Heat Recovery System enabled. In addition, the vessels EcoMain Decision Support System.
  • GEA Westphalia Separator Group supplied 160 eagle-class separators for this class.
  • Danfoss Semco supplied its patented VTL Drives frequency converters installed in the engine room.
  • KRAL delivered 600 screw pumps, which act as transfer, supply and circulation pumps for the booster modules.

Alternative fuel

Maersk is working with a group of Dutch multinationals—FrieslandCampina, Heineken, Philips, DSM, Shell and Unilever—who are partners in the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition. The aim of this project is to test the use of up to 20% sustainable biofuels on Triple-E vessels. The test vessel will journey 25,000 nautical miles from Rotterdam to Shanghai and back on biofuel blends alone—a world’s first at this scale—saving 1.5 million kilograms CO2 and 20,000 kilograms of sulphur, reports Green Car Congress March 2019.

The alternative fuel used is ISCC Certified biofuel, meaning that the whole chain is third-party certified. In this case the biofuel is sourced from used cooking oil (UCOME oil). The benefits of biofuel is that it can to be blended with fossil fuels, without having to make big technical adaptations to the engines or replace with a new engine, etc. The test voyage to China and back, left Rotterdam in March and due to return in late June 2019. The expected CO2 savings of this journey could equate to the annual CO2 emitted by over 200 households in a year or 12 million kilometres travelled in an average car.

The market for Triple E class

At present, the market for shipping has been tight, there has been only a 4 percent growth in container throughput according to Maritime consultancy Drewry. So it is not surprising that new orders for Triple E class vessels from operators apart from Maersk have been slow, with media reports for 5 similar vessels each respectively from China Shipping Container Lines and United Arab Shipping Company.

Although, the prospect of the tightening up of emission controls by the IMO low sulphur rule and slowing in demand in Asia, especially China is depressing demand for new capacity, at a time when operators face added costs of making their fleets compliant with tougher environmental regulations. The ongoing market developments could see fleet owners increase orders in new Triple E class vessels.  

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