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New Mærsk Triple-E ships world’s largest and most efficient; waste heat recovery and ultra long stroke engines contribute to up to 50% reduction in CO2/container moved

Rendering of the Triple-E. Click to enlarge.

Mærsk Line has signed a contract with Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. to build 10 of the world’s largest and most efficient vessels—the Triple E (Economy of scale, Energy efficient and Environmentally improved)—with an option for an additional 20 vessels. The newbuilds are scheduled for delivery between 2013 and 2015.

Four-hundred metres long, 59 meters wide and 73 meters high, the Triple-E is the largest vessel of any type on the water today, according to Mærsk. Its 18,000 TEU (twenty-foot container) capacity is 16% greater (2,500 containers) than today’s largest container vessel, Emma Mærsk. The Triple-E will produce 20% less CO2 per container moved compared to Emma Mærsk and 50% less than the industry average on the Asia-Europe trade lane.

In addition, it will consume approximately 35% less fuel per container than the 13,100 TEU vessels being delivered to other container shipping lines in the next few years, also for Asia-Europe service.

Each vessel will cost US$190 million. Besides its size, which provides superior economies of scale compared to other vessels (more cargo means less CO2 per container moved), the efficiency of Triple-E comes from its innovative design.

The Triple-E vessels have a 26% slot cost advantage compared to the 13,100 TEU vessels sailing on today’s oceans considering a full roundtrip from Asia to Europe (based on a bunker price of US$600 per metric tonnes). Slot cost is a consolidated figure from several costs; bunker fuel, vessel costs (operational and capital) plus port and canal fees.

Two ‘ultra-long stroke’ engines turn two propellers, and specially optimized hull and bow forms guide the vessel through the water at the speeds typical in the industry today. An advanced waste heat recovery system captures and reuses energy from the engines’ exhaust gas for extra propulsion with less fuel consumption.

To reduce the environmental impact of the vessels beyond their lifecycle, Mærsk Line is setting a new standard for the way vessels are recycled. All the materials used to build the Triple-E class will be documented and mapped in the vessel’s ‘cradle-to-cradle passport’. This means that when the vessel is retired from service, this document will ensure that all materials can be reused, recycled or disposed of in the safest, most efficient manner.

Propulsion system. The top speed of the Triple-E was capped at 23 knots, two knots lower than Emma Mærsk’s top speed. This meant a power requirement of 65-70 megawatts compared to Emma’s 80 megawatts—about a 19% reduction. A slower max speed also enabled Mærsk Line to consider engines that could operate at slower revolutions—‘ultra-long stroke’— which provides the greatest fuel efficiency.

To retain the efficiency created by the slower revolutions of an ultra-long stroke engine requires a larger propeller diameter. However, the size of the propeller is limited by the dimensions of the vessel and the available space beneath the keel.

To mitigate these restrictions and achieve the desired efficiency, Mærsk Line research determined that a two engine/two propeller ‘twin skeg’ system was superior to the one engine/propeller setup. The Triple-E’s two propellers are 9.8 metres in diameter with 4 blades each, compared to Emma’s single propeller, which is 9.6 metres in diameter with 6 blades. The combined diameter of the propellers provides greater pushing power in the water and the fewer number of blades creates less resistance.

All together, the Triple-E’s twin-skeg propulsion system consumes approximately 4% less energy than Emma Mærsk’s single engine/single propeller propulsion system.

The MAN diesel engines weigh 910 metric tonnes each, and deliver output of 43,000 hp (32,065 kW). Fuel consumption is 168 grams bunker oil per kWh produced.

Waste heat recovery. The Triple-E is the latest in a succession of Mærsk Line vessels (20 vessels, including the 8 Emma Mærsk class vessels) to be equipped with an energy saving advanced waste heat recovery system. For the Triple-E, the effect of the waste heat recovery system is a reduction in the engine’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by approximately 9%.

When exhaust gas leaves the engine, it has a very high heat potential. Utilizing this potential in an exhaust gas boiler, it is possible to generate steam. The waste heat recovery system then supplies the steam into a turbine connected to a generator which then recovers electrical energy.



They could do away with the remaining very dirty bunker oil and resume full speed operation if nuclear reactors were fitted in these very large ships.
Eco-loons and fossil fuel interests continue to obstruct taking the obvious and environmentally sound steps we need to move away from fossil fuels.



What would a nuclear reactor cost? Would Mærsk Line be able to compete with such an expensive source of energy? Instead of blaming all on 'eco-loons', there might be a very sound, commercial reason for using proven technology.

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Maersk pays about 180 million USD a peace for this container ship which leaves about 30 million USD for its propulsion system. A nuclear reactor for marine use probably starts at about 500 million USD and such a ship would also need to be escorted by a full size military vessel in order to prevent it from being hijacked by pirates or terrorists. So it is really not an option that makes any sense for commercial ships when the main goal is to reduce the cost of long-haul transportation.

Something that could be done, but that will require global support for it to happen, will be to switch the shipping industry to burn liquid natural gas instead of bunker oil. That would eliminate the SOX pollution and also help to reduce soot and CO2 pollution from shipping. It would also lower the fuel cost although it will require large investments in infrastructure.

I read elsewhere that Maersk will not be able to use these new ships at US harbors as they do currently not have the ability to load and off-load with the speed required to make it economical for ships that large. So these ships are so far only for European and Asian trade where that ability exists.

For those who are interested here is a link to a video that explains the new propulsion system in these ships


How amazing the USA's ports cannot handle large container ships as EU and China can. Is this the beginning of the end?


Why couldn't they have onboard desalination equipment to create freshwater, which is in turn fed to hydrolosis equipment to make hydrogen, which is then used to supply hydrogen fuel cells for propulsion?


Yeah, there are 'sound commercial reasons' for using very dirty bunker oil in preference to nuclear. The medical costs of burning vast quantities of this very dirty fuel are externalised, so that the high capital costs of nuclear outweigh the low fuel costs.
The various 'green' groups meanwhile succeed in getting many ports etc declared nuclear free zones, so continuing their practise of opposing dangerous emissions and release of carbon dioxide in theory whilst in practise preventing the use of technology which would greatly reduce them.
Here is an analysis of the costs of nuclear powered ships:
Smaller, safer reactors such as the Hyperion and MSR which again have been fought tooth and nail by fossil fuel interests in collusion with greens would do a far better job in this application, but even using present reactors the conversion of a few dozen giant vessels would greatly reduce pollution and CO2 emissions on a world-wide scale

As for nuclear terrorism, I would be curious to learn what it is imagined that Somali pirates could do with the nuclear reactor on a ship, other than if they managed to breach the containment die from radiation.

It is not that difficult to provide security for a few dozen vessels, and the rules of engagement for forces engaged in their defence would be likely to be very different.
The US Navy might be quite annoyed at an attempt to take a nuclear vessel.
Pirates are really not a problem if there is a willingness to kill them.


The reason these ships will never hit the USA or North American Ports is due to port stay limitations. The Asia/Europe route is perfect for huge ships due to the much bigger Suez Canal and the ability to load and discharge large but not huge numbers of containers at many ports. If you ran them between Yokohama and LongBeach, both of which physically could accomodate them, you end up having the ship in port for 4 -6 days discharging and loading containers as you have to completely cycle the entire carrying capacity of the ship( 9000 forty foot units). The ship is not making any money for anyone in port....but even allowing for 7 cranes all out working the ship, you can't handle all the loads in less than 4 days- so use them between Europe and Asia where they will be much more efficient!



You are naive about nuclear technology and how expensive it is and what the dangers are.

Of course the danger is not Somali pirates, it's TERRORISTS.

The Hyperion reactor was not intended for use on a ship. Adapting it to such use would be very costly. Unless you have some figures that prove me wrong. You might try.

And then you really seem to be thinking the the US Navy has nothing better to do than protecting nuclear container ships 24/7. For free, please. Because Mærsk Line can not afford to pay for permanent military escorts. They simply have to stay alive in a hugely competitive market.

Burning heavy bunker oil is not good for the environment, at least we agree on something. But there is much more we can do closer at home in building heating, electricity generation and road transport. The few percent of fossil fuels burnt in ships is not worth spending so much money on and taking so much risk.

It seems you might learn a few lessons in practical thinking from your 'eco-loons'.


If you take a gander at the 'artistic rendering' of this 1/4 mile-long behemoth, you may notice a 'visible soot emission'. How's that for realistic bunker-burning (yet efficient) transport!


This is SO NOT GREEN on many levels.

Sure...encourage even more cheap, huge, dirty manufacturing. Guess what? Highly unlikely those containers will be full of anything other than scrap on the backhaul.

How do WE get the producers of bunker fuel to go LSD let alone Ultra? Engines can only be as clean as the fuel put into them.

Nothing like the FREE-market system.

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There are about 40,000 large commercial ships globally (over 1000 gross register tons) that do perhaps as much as 95% of the global sea transport and possibly 90% of the global international trade as measured by weight. They burn through about 4 million barrels of oil every day or about the same as the global aviation industry. Source

Even if the entire US navy was used to escort nuclear powered commercial ships they could only do it for about 300 of these 40000 ships. So your suggestion is both logistically and economically absurd.

However, using bunker oil as the fuel in the shipping industry is a long-term health and security problem. For instance, the global shipping industry emits 870 million tons of CO2 per year or about the same as the global aviation industry. It emits 20 million tons of NOX or 10 times more than the aviation industry and worst of all it emits 12 million tons of SO2 (that causes acid rain destroying forests and degrading buildings among other things) or 100 times that emitted per year by the entire global aviation industry. Source

Therefore, a shift to using liquid natural gas instead of oil in the shipping industry is what is needed in the long-term.

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See also this source for a story about converting the shipping industry to burn liquid natural gas instead of bunker oil.

Thomas Pedersen

What most people fail to realize is that when you take your car down to Walmart or Best Buy for a DVD/BluRay player, you will spend 2-10 times more fossil fuel than was used to transport it around the world by ship.

About the dirty bunker fuel. Yes, it is a terrible substance which contains not only all the bad things from crude oil, but also vanadium and other wear materials from refineries. Wouldn't it be better to simply not burn this fuel? Well, most of the polution over the oceans, far from shore, has little consequence. That is not to say that it has no consequence.

Well-run shipping lines like Maersk would actually gain competitive advantage from strict environmental restrictions on marine shipping, by being better equipped to comply. But since the open ocean is under no juristriction, polution control depends on voluntary ratification by flag-states like Bahama, Panama, Monrovia, etc. Even Russia... I know from people that have personally attended the MARPOL meetings that combatting marine polution is a painstaking process. Yet, thankfully, the ball seems to be rolling after decades of complacency.

I heard at a marine seminar from a oil refinery expert that removing sulphur from heavy fuel oil (HFO) costs the same as cracking the HFO into diesel and a pile of elemental sulphur. The latter product would obviously have a much higher market price than low-sulphur HFO. Therefore he could not see how a market for low-sulphur HFO could ever exist or how the market could be able to supply the entire shipping industry.

So maybe LNG like Henrik says... Well, there is an enourmous energy pentalty from liquefying the natural gas. However some of this energy penalty could theoretically be recovered with a low-temperature bottoming cycle after the GT and ST in a combined cycle. But now we are talking about much more complicated systems than the tried and trusted diesel engines (which run at 50% efficiency plus the output from the waste heat system). And loosing power in the middle of the ocean can be deadly!

LNG with SOFC could be a winning combination in the future, if they somehow magically can improve cost and reliability by a factor of 10+..?


There is a much more effective way of reducing the CO2 and pollution emissions from shipping, one that Thomas touched on with his Walmart comment: Stop buying so much imported junk! Manufacturing stuff in your own country not only reduces pollution in promotes employment.


Why couldn't they have onboard desalination equipment to create freshwater, which is in turn fed to hydrolosis equipment to make hydrogen, which is then used to supply hydrogen fuel cells for propulsion?

Say whaaatt?

How would this help?

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Thomas I am almost 100% certain that you don’t need to drop the good old diesel engine in order to run on LNG (so no need for expensive GT and ST in a combined cycle). The diesel engine can be inexpensively adapted to burn LNG. However, the LNG fueled ships will need to be outfitted with expensive and bulky cryogenic tanks for storing the LNG. That will raise the price of a commercial ship by about 10% according to the Bloomberg article I mentioned above. With the current price of LNG and bunker oil (likely 360 USD per ton for LNG and 630 USD per ton for bunker oil where 1.3 ton LNG = 1 ton bunker oil energy wise) these 10% can quickly be recovered in the annual fuel bill savings.

The problem is that the harbors do currently not have the facilities to fuel merchant ships with LNG and it will easily cost over 500 million USD per harbor to get that infrastructure. It is a classic economic problem where the harbor will not invest in such infrastructure before the ships demand it and the shipping companies will not order the LNG ships before the harbors has the infrastructure to fuel them. Therefore, we need international cooperation and legislation in order for it to happen. IMO coordinated international actions could see all mayor harbors outfitted with LNG terminals by 2020 and the shipping industry entirely converted to run on LNG by 2035.

The benefits would be enormous both from an economic, an environmental and from a security point of view. For example, quoting the mentioned Bloomberg article “LNG cuts carbon emissions from shipping by about 25 percent, sulfur oxides by almost 100 percent, and nitrogen oxides by 85 percent, Blikom said.” As international shipping is responsible for perhaps as much as 80% of the global sulfur oxide emissions it will benefit the global environment significantly to make the switch to LNG in the shipping industry.


ejj had it right! We could have an onboard desalinization plant, which would make fresh water, which would make...HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Oh, I just couldn't finish that! What a freakin' stupid idea! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
ejj, for someone who comes across so hard-core conservative, it's good to know you hit the pipe once in a while, too.


Okay, that being said, some quickie feedback -

Yes, buying American made product reduces overseas shipping. Or it would if you could get American companies to build more stuff in the US, other than American Idol reruns.

The reason we can't support such water-logged behemoths is because we HAVE an infrastructure and China and the other third-world yahoos did not. They were able to start from scratch. We would have to dig up the San Francisco and New York harbors and build over what is already there. Talk about a logistics nightmare!

There will be bigger, but fewer, ocean vessels like the Maersk Chucklebutt above due to the rising cost of oil. International trade won't be stopped, but it will be curtailed slightly. We are already seeing the beginnings of companies building factories to make the things their customers will buy, in the countries where the customers lie. It is becoming cheaper to "make the things here" and then sell them here, than ship them in overseas. However, the global economy is here and some items will still need to be shipped for the foreseeable future. Thus, your monster Chucklebutts, like above. I just hope they put that rubber bladder in it like Kramer suggested.

Onboard nuclear reactors as a fuel source will never happen. It's been attempted, but quickly scrapped. Terrorist activity is the driving concern, but also consider how the ocean tides sometimes run and the damage they can do to any manmade vessel. It's one thing to spill a shitload of oil in the ocean, it's quite another to dump a shitload of Uranium 235 into it.

Henrik has the right idea. LNG could easily replace oil as a vessel's fuel source. And retrofitting those big-ass ships wouldn't be a problem since we have ships that transport LNG today. Just a matter of a little re-tooling and slapping on a new coat of paint. However, he's also right that it won't happen because of (drum roll, please) INFRASTRUCTURE. We don't have ports set up to fuel the ships this way and, like with rebuilding the harbors, it'd be a logistical nightmare. (Who'd have thought an Austrian could get two points correct in the same day?)

Well, that's my two cents. I'm heading over to my favorite bar. It's taco night and I'm going to make my own natural gas. Fill 'er up!


None of you even mentioned the cleanup that is in process on the Sea lanes. Nor the change in fuels that is coming to all ships on the seas.

There was an International Treaty passed in the Bush Administration with little notice, that requires standard Bunker Oil to be further refined to remove certain compounds like Sulfur. The "MARPOL IV" Treaty Amendment, has established a plan to require four stages of cleanup and we are in the final Tier III- Tier IV stage, now.

This is an amazing Treaty that has an unusual enforcement mechanism. Such was needed because of the "Flags of Convenience" issue, that allow many shipping companies to register their ships in, and fly the flags of, countries that would purposely be lax in compliance of most any sort.

The solution was to enlist the few Marine Insurance firms to Not issue marine insurance to vessels that did not comply with MARPOL Treaty requirements to utilize cleaner, lower Sulfur, fuels.

No shipping company would let a ship sail without marine insurance, nor would any harbor allow such a vessel to use their port facilities. The number of marine insurers is rather limited, and they are based primarily in advanced countries, so an enforcement mechanism can be applied by/to them.

But not really, since they could flee and relocate to "Flag of Convenience" countries too. The Treaty relies on the cooperation and self-interest of the marine insurers.

They regulate the "health" of marine shipping, categorize a vessel's "health" and establish an insurance rate.

They can and do rule a vessel no longer sea-worthy, and unable to obtain the vital shipping insurance when their inspector's periodic reviews indicate it is time to renovate or scrap the vessel. The high insurance cost make even the most derelict of vessels uncompetitive in shipping costs,and literally useless.

It works. OGVs now routinely use a cleaner fuel, Tier II complaint, than they used to use, and will use an even cleaner bunker fuel, Tier IV compliant, when the world's refineries are adapted to produce it, toward the end of the decade.

You should remember that bunker fuel is literally the bottom of the barrel, and the residue after all other valuable fractions are removed and utilized. Taking this barely viscous goo, and finding a use for it challenged the Oil companies. Now they process it further,and price it higher as a result. the offset to these higher prices is the marine insurance which the self-int erst of the marine insurers can assert. Proving once again that not all mechanisms for regulation need involve the fist of governmental coercion.


Aside from the hurtful, insensitive remarks from beckyvegas and alvin, I will admit that I don't have very good knowledge of mechanical engineering. But still no one has really answered my question...I figured one of the loyal GCC commenters would help me instead of make fun of me :( .

Desalination is common on cruise ships (and a supply of seawater isn't a problem)...I'm assuming hydrolosis would require freshwater? Hydrogen fuel cell vessels are already being explored And, there is a new story "Pilus Energy and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies to combine bioreactors with fuel cells"

So on a large ship (including cruise ships & fishing ships), 1) marine desal makes freshwater 2) hydrolosis is used on freshwater to make hydrogen and/or 3) bioreactor creates hydrogen 4) hydrogen used as fuel for marine grade fuel cell. No fuel costs, no emissions.

Please forgive me if I'm not making sense.


I forgot about the desal byproduct (salt) but there should be someone who could use it...New York / DC to put on roads during the winter?

ejj - marine desal up to 93,000 GPD.

Coke Machine

There was a nuclear powered merchant ship, the NS Savannah, that I toured (In Savannah) when I was 5 in 1960. It wasn't built to be profitable and was more like a yacht. It was a feasability study to see if nukes could power container ships. The Savannah wasn't built to be a container/cargo ship, but was a pretty neat looking vessel. They would just have to redo the reactor, and redisgn the vessel. Security concerns aside, someone could probably make it work.


You're missing a bet here. Even you, Anne.

The speed of this larger (= greater hull speed) ship was REDUCED to save fuel. With a nuclear powerplant, who would need to save fuel? A nuke-powered ship of this size could run close to its hull speed, which is 48.5 knots for a 400-meter waterline. Even if it was only powered to go 35 knots, no pirate vessel of significant size could catch it and the small boats used for raiding would be too far below the decks to make boarding possible at speed. Power it to go 40 knots, even the small boats would have trouble keeping up.

A vessel going 35 knots would also cut the time for the 7000 miles between Shanghai and Long Beach by almost 104 hours. There's your 4 days of turnaround time, saved en route.


Glad to see people working on what I commented on above...except hydrogen directly from seawater without the need for freshwater... this is great research!!!!

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