February 15 - The China Navigation Company (CNCo) has successfully launched the first of a new series of eight S-Class vessels.

The first of these 31,000-DWT modern, multi-purpose and highly fuel efficient S-Class vessels, Shansi, is due to enter into service at the end of March 2013.

All eight of the new vessels are scheduled for deployment directly into Swire Shipping's multi-purpose liner trades linking North, East and South-East Asia to key markets in Australia, New Zealand and the island nations of the South Pacific.

The S-Class ships will provide Swire Shipping's customers with additional capacity, heavy lift capabilities (up to 120 tonnes) and increased cargo flexibility, it claims.

The vessels have been specially designed to offer ground-breaking fuel efficiency, high speed cargo handling capability and the versatility to carry a wide range of cargo types, including steel and forest products, heavy lift plant machinery and equipment, as well as project parcels, plus agricultural commodities and minor bulk parcels.

Swire points to a number of high-specification, technological features, in the new ships, including:

- Low friction anti-fouling paint, optimised hull lines with highly efficient propeller and Mewis Duct, and many other features designed to reduce power consumption at sea and in port

- Variable speed controlled pumps and a Vessel Performance System for dynamic control of the vessel speed and fuel consumption

- Wartsila RT Flex electronically controlled Tier-II main engine optimised for the lowest fuel consumption at fully loaded design speed of 15.5 knots

- Fuel and lube oil tanks protected by a double skin

- Ballast water treatment system, 3-stage 5 ppm oily water separator, advanced incinerator and garbage compactor

- Four MacGregor electric deck cranes, 60-tonne swl, capable of combined lifts up to 120 tonnes

- Full multi-purpose capability in holds 3 and 4 with split folding tweendecks and hatch covers with strengthened tank-tops for steel coils and heavy break-bulk cargo and grab use. Holds 1, 2 and 5 are cellular with cell-guide stoppers offering full container use and the possibility to carry breakbulk cargo below the containers

* Hatchcovers fitted with recessed container fittings allowing a fully flat surface for optimum carriage of containers, project cargo or breakbulk cargo

* Capacity for 147 reefer containers on deck

* Holds fitted with forced draft ventilation

Shansi is scheduled for delivery in late March 2013 and will undergo extensive testing and sea trials in the interim. A second sister vessel, Shantung, was launched on January 25 and the remaining S-Class vessels will be launched at monthly intervals, with the eighth and final vessel, Szechuen, scheduled for delivery in October 2013.