The first of 27 vessels ordered by Maersk Line in 2015 to enter service has made its first call at the Port of Tianjin, China.
The 20,568 teu Madrid Maersk is also the first in a series of 11 2nd generation Triple-E vessels.
The carrier, which deploys the ship in its Asia-Europe service network, is set to take delivery of the 27 vessels until the end of 2018.
The remaining order book includes ten 2nd generation Triple-E vessels, nine 15,226 teu and seven 3,596 teu container vessels, with the new ships expected to replace older and less efficient tonnage.
According to the company, Maersk Line’s head haul utilisation rate hit an average of 93% in 2016, meaning that there is little room for growth without additional capacity.
While admitting that overcapacity remains a problem for the container shipping industry, the carrier noted that the order book accounts for 11% of its current fleet, which is lower than the industry’s order book of around 15%.
Maersk Line has not taken delivery of own new-buildings since July 2015.
A company statement read: “To stay competitive and achieve lowest cost, Maersk Line will continue to manage fleet capacity tightly.”
As the statement continued, the company has a relatively high number of vessels on short term charters, giving it the flexibility to adjust fleet capacity when new vessels come on-stream.
The carrier is also recycling old and more inefficient vessels, with a total of seven Panamax vessels being recycled in the first quarter of 2017.
Søren Toft, chief operating officer of Maersk Line, said: “If you look at our current order book and also the capacity we are able to return to charter owners, which is roughly 20%, we are in a pretty good position.
“We are expecting to grow this year, and expecting global growth of about 3%, but if those things don’t happen we also have a powerful ability to adjust our network to changing conditions in a way that many other shipping lines do not have.”
As Toft added, the carrier’s strategy is to grow in line with its main competitors through a combination of buying new and used ships, and chartering vessels.
“These new vessels help modernise our fleet, significantly improve our operational efficiency and will help us achieve our growth ambitions, regardless of short-term economic cycles,” he noted.