Here come the megaships.
The CMA CGM Group, one of the world’s largest ocean freight shippers, said Thursday it will deploy its flagship fleet of six 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit, or TEU, vessels between Asia and the U.S. West Coast starting at the end of May.
This decision is in line with the growth strategy set by the CMA in the U.S. and around the world and the optimization of its fleet. The company said flagship fleet will be deployed on the most active and dynamic market right now — the trans-Pacific route — and will support its development and that of its customers.
In total, six ships of 18,000 TEUs, or containers, will join the company’s Pearl River Express service that runs from China’s South Coast to the U.S. West Coast. The ships bear the names of great explorers — CMA CGM Bougainville, CMA CGM Kerguelen, CMA CGM Georg Forster, CMA CGM Vasco de Gama, CMA CGM Zheng He and CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin.
The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin became the largest ship ever to call on a U.S. port in December and was inaugurated on Feb. 19 in Long Beach, Calif., in the presence of Jacques Saadé, chairman and chief executive officer of CMA CGM, 450 customers, and executives and government officials.
The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin will remain on the trans-Pacific market and be joined by the five others on the route.
These ships are among the largest in the world. They are equipped with the latest environmental technology and they will significantly reduce CMA CGM’s carbon footprint. The trans-Pacific route is already one of the busiest in the world and can grow substantially if the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement goes into effect.
Many ocean carriers have turned to building larger ships for greater efficiency and savings. In turn, ports have had to enlarge their berthing and channel sizes to handle the larger vessels. The Panama Canal is close to completion of a $5.25 billion expansion and reengineering that will allow these ships to pass through en route to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.
CMA CGM has 470 vessels that call on more than 400 ports in the world on five continents annually. In 2015, they carried 13 million TEUs. With a presence in 160 countries through its 655 agencies network, the company employs 22,000 people worldwide, including 2,400 in its headquarter in Marseilles, France.