August 13 - After months of speculation, Atlantic Container Line (ACL) has confirmed plans to build five combination ro-ro / container carriers (Conro).

The Generation 4 (G4) ships, to be built at China's Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding, will replace ACL's existing fleet of G3 Conros operating in the company's transatlantic service.

ACL says the new ships will be the first of their type ever built; and will be bigger, faster, greener and more efficient than their predecessors.

They will have a container capacity of 3,800 teu plus 28,900 sq m of ro-ro space, with a car capacity of 1,307 vehicles. ACL says that speed will be increased by 10 percent, yet fuel consumption per teu will be reduced by 50 percent.

The new ships will continue to employ cell-guides on deck, a feature that will allow ACL to extend an enviable record: its ships have never lost a container over the side during the last 30 years.

All five vessels are scheduled be delivered in 2015.

State-owned Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (HZ) of Shanghai has a reputation as one of the highest quality shipyards in China. It has built over 3,000 ships including complicated special purpose vessels and naval vessels.

"We have taken our time to make this decision because we had to get it right," explained Andrew Abbott, president & ceo of ACL (pictured below). "We were able to buy at the perfect time and got a first class shipyard to help us to create a new standard to which all future conros will be compared. The dramatic increase in efficiency is essential for our long term competitiveness. We will have the equivalent of 6,500 teu containerships in terms of earning power and economies of scale, but with far lower costs."

ACL adds that it is studying its current port rotation and will be making some enhancements. Although its new schedule has not been firmed up, it is expected that one or two traditional ACL port calls may be dropped to make room for a new South Atlantic port.

Bill Kearns, ACL's executive vice president, notes that "we have been forced to put many of our loyal customers on allocations for many years because we were never able to grow with the market. It will be satisfying to be able to accept all the cargo that our customers offer us, instead of being constrained by space limitations.

"The G4s demonstrate to our customers and our staff that our parent company, Grimaldi, is prepared to invest for the future to maintain ACL's position as a high quality container and ro-ro operator on the North Atlantic," says Abbott. "Grimaldi has always been very supportive of ACL and its organisation and they provided invaluable technical guidance and legal support during these negotiations. The G4s will give us the right tools to further enhance our track record of profitability for many years to come."