Major environmental challenges call us all to action in pursuit of cleaner seas and a greener economy. The CMA CGM Group, a shareholder in Malta Freeport Terminals, has planted its pioneering flag firmly in the ground with the recent launch of the first mega container ship to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
More than four football pitches in length and higher than the Eiffel Tower, the CMA CGM Jacques Saade, fittingly named after the group’s visionary founder, has paved the way for an ecological transition that needs to take place if we are to safeguard our fragile ocean.
Malta Freeport Terminals is proud to form part of this symbolic moment, receiving the CMA CGM Jacques Saade during its maiden voyage in October. Its sister ship, the CMA CGM Champs Elysees, swiftly followed with a visit to Malta last month. These state-of-the-art vessels usher in an exciting new era for the shipping industry.
So what is so special about the CMA CGM Jacques Saade generation? For starters, their environmental credentials place them in a class of their own.
LNG is currently considered as the state-of-the-art energy solution for preserving air quality. It delivers a 99 per cent reduction in sulphur dioxide and fine particle emissions and 85 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, all of which represent a major healthcare challenge.
As the industry strives to achieve zero-emission transport, LNG is presently the best intermediary solution and is currently considered as the least polluting type of fossil fuel. So much so, that this class of vessel emits up to 20 per cent less CO2 than heavy fuel-powered systems which are still used by the majority of ships today.
The CMA CGM Jacques Saade is the fruit of seven years’ research and development whereby every detail has been optimised to reduce the ship’s environmental footprint. It features a redesigned straight bow with an integrated bulb, a redesigned rudder and a remodelled propeller, all of which substantially improve the vessel’s hydrodynamics, thereby reducing energy consumption.
With the ocean always in mind, these vessels are also equipped with several innovative features ‒ including an approved ballast water treatment system which enables water to be discharged into the sea completely free of all living organisms that could impact marine biodiversity.
The ship is remarkable not only for its onboard technologies but also for its size. The CMA CGM Jacques Saade is 400m long, 61m wide and 78m tall, with a 16m draught and a capacity for 23,000 TEU containers. With 12 levels stacked on the deck, the vessel is as high as a 26-storey building, making this technological masterpiece instantly recognisable as it sails across the continents.
When this gentle giant berthed on the North Quay of Terminal One at Malta Freeport, the ship’s profile revealed 11 high cube containers above the deck. It was an awe-inspiring sight. Yet our professional and dedicated workforce were undaunted, handling the vessel with maximum efficiency during its stay in Malta.
We have been preparing for moments like this for a long time. Our facility has been bolstered by an investment in excess of €350 million since privatisation in 2004. It forms part of our strategic vision to establish ourselves as a leading Mediterranean port capable of handling the world’s largest and most technologically-advanced vessels.
The mega max Quay Cranes installed at Terminal One, together with the works undertaken to dredge the water depths to 17m, permits Malta Freeport Terminals to be among a small group of elite ports in Europe that have the physical capability to operate this size of vessel.
The CMA CGM Jacques Saade is the first in a series of nine sister ships completing a homogeneous LNG-powered fleet. This makes it much more than a flagship. It is a vessel with a vision ‒ demonstrating that energy transition in the shipping industry can be successfully achieved which, in turn, contributes to a cleaner marine environment.
With shipping being the backbone of global trade, the launch of this class of ship could not be more timely, especially given the legacy associated with the use of high sulphur content heavy fuel oil and the serious climate change issues that have become a critical concern to the international shipping community. It is incumbent on all of us to work towards a scenario where emissions in our sector are curbed through an effective and sustainable shift towards cleaner shipping.
With the ambitious target for greenhouse gas reductions set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the increasing demand for clean shipping solutions, the CMA CGM Jacques Saade is a window onto the future.
It marks a milestone in the shipping sector’s efforts to decarbonise its operations and is the first giant stride towards achieving the CMA CGM Group’s ambitious 2050 objective to be carbon neutral. Moreover, this new fleet is destined to pave the way for a collective, collaborative, global approach to decarbonising shipping and unlocking a global energy transition.
This has to be worth cracking open the champagne for!
Alex Montebello, CEO, Malta Freeport Terminals and is also a board member of the Malta Maritime Forum.