01 Feb 2024
by Amy McLellan

In the fast lane with ‘futureproof’ car carriers

Pure car and truck carriers (PCTCs) are optimised to transport cars, trucks, and other rolling cargo across the world’s oceans. Now there is a new design on the block with green credentials. 

Fuel flexibility and energy efficiency are driving demand for Deltamarin’s PCTC ship design, with the Finnish company landing Höegh Autoliners, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Neptune Lines, Sallaum Lines, China Merchant Energy Shipping and BYD Auto as clients over the past two years. 

PCTCs represent a growing fleet as automotive manufacturers seek to make their supply chains environmentally friendly and ship increasing numbers of electric vehicles to new markets. China’s largest electric car manufacturer BYD Auto, for example, has ordered four 9,200 Car Equivalent Unit (CEU) PCTCs to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), with delivery of the first vessel next year. 

“The car carrier industry is going through very interesting times as both the market as well as the environmental requirements for car transportation are rapidly changing,” said Janne Uotila, CEO of Deltamarin, which is part of China Merchants Group.  

Deltamarin, boasting 30 years of ship design and offshore engineering behind it, describes its PCTC design as ‘a futureproof solution’, although Esa Jokioinen, Director of Sales & Marketing, said each client opts for a different design based on their own unique requirements around cargo mix, fuel preferences or harbour restrictions. 

Fuel choice is a big consideration as ship owners seek to meet existing cleaner-shipper rules and anticipate those coming down the pipeline as the industry pushes to meet its own net zero ambitions.  

“At the moment we are working with LNG, methanol and ammonia-fuelled PCTCs,” said Jokioinen. “The fuels selected for the vessel have an impact on which rules are followed in the design, and thereby also into the arrangement and system configurations.” 

In December 2023, Deltamarin signed a design contract with China Merchants Jinling Shipyard Co. for four, and up to eight, potential units of 9,350 CEU next-generation PCTCs ordered by Wallenius Wilhelmsen. These ‘Shaper Class’ vessels will be methanol fuelled on delivery but are also ammonia-ready and can be converted as soon as ammonia becomes available in a safe and secure way. The first vessel will be delivered from the China Merchants Jinling Shipyard in the second half of 2026. 

The PCTCs being built for Neptune Line will be powered by LNG and the design also includes an energy storage system, high-voltage shore power, and readiness for a solar power system.  

Swiss-based Sallaum Line is taking four, plus two options, 7,400 CEU vessels, with delivery from 2026. Again, they will be powered by LNG. China Merchant Energy Shipping (CMES) has ordered 2+4 x 9,300 CEU methanol-fuelled vessels, with first delivery in 2026. 

Jokioinen pointed out that futureproofing isn’t just about thinking about fuel, energy efficiency and energy saving devices. “It also includes what kind of cargoes are expected to be transported during the vessel’s life cycle, which usually has implications on the cargo area configuration of the ships.” 

Inevitably this leads to questions about electric vehicles, which have been under scrutiny for their potential fire risk when under transit at sea. 

“EV fire safety has been in the focus, as they [represent] a big part of the units that are expected to transport in the future for many of our clients,” said Jokioinen, but he declined to reveal details of the work gone in to address this potential hazard, citing what he called ‘IP issues’.” 

With electrification of transport networks expanding to support energy transition, the cross-ocean trade in EVs is only going to grow – good news for ship designers that can anticipate the future of car carriers in a low carbon world. 


Main image: Neptune Lines’ next generation PCTC; credit: Deltamarin