September 28 - Earlier this week, the port of Hamburg saw the first sailing of Grimaldi's newbuilding, Grande Sierra Leone, from the Unikai terminal on the line's West Africa service.

Grande Sierra Leone (pictured below) joins the Southern Express service of the Grimaldi Lines, which now operates with a total of six con-ro ships and links Hamburg with the West African ports of Casablanca, Dakar, Conakry, Lome, Pointe Noire, Luanda and Douala. On the southbound leg, the port rotation includes Amsterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp, Le Havre, Bilbao, Leixoes and Lisbon. The deployment of Grande Sierra Leone allows Grimaldi to step up the frequency of departures to West Africa from ten to eight days.

Grande Sierra Leone completes the series of 12 'Grande' newbuilds, seven built at the Uljanik shipyard in Pula, Croatia; and five built by Hyundai in Korea. With a length of 210 m and a draught of 9.5 m, the ships in the Grande class can carry 2,000 cars/vans, 800 teu and provide 2,000 linear metres with a track width of 2.5 m to accommodate extra large and heavy cargo such as trucks and construction vehicles.

General cargo is transported on roll trailers or loaded conventionally using forklift trucks with a carrying capacity of 38 tonnes. The stern ramp can support a load of 250 tonnes, and the two Liebherr onboard cranes can each lift 45 tonnes.

"Hamburg is the key port in northern Europe for the Grimaldi Group. It is from here that we service the West African continent as well as the east coast of South America and a number of destinations in the Mediterranean. For the year 2012, we will be able to increase our capacities further still, and our current planning is for about 250 arrivals at the Unikai terminal," announced Dirk Peters, from Grimaldi Germany GmbH.

The port says that staple exports to West Africa via Hamburg are primarily vehicles, as well as grain, fertiliser, chemical products and other machinery and equipment.