The arrival from China of the Rickmers-owned containership Maersk Elba at the DCT Gdansk terminal on 11 May marked a new era in Baltic shipping. At 13,092TEU and carrying containers 17-wide below deck and 19-wide on the hatchcovers, she is the biggest container vessel by far ever handled by a Baltic port.
Whilst in the port, Maersk Elba was visited by many dignatories including Donald Tusk, Poland’s current Prime Minister, the iconic Lech Walesa, the former union leader who successfully ran for the newly re-established office of President of Poland in 1990, and Eivind Kolding, CEO of Maersk Line. They were welcomed on board by the vessel’s master, Captain Wojciech Kucz, whose hometown happens by coincidence to be Gdansk.
Having spent longer in port than usual, Maersk Elba finally sailed on the return leg of her voyage on 14 May.
Built at the Hyundai shipyard in Ulsan, Maersk Elba was actually christened Scorpio Rickmers by Joan Engelstoft, wife of Morten Engelstoft, Senior Vice President and COO of Maersk Line, on 17 February 2011. She was then renamed Maersk Elba for the duration of her longterm charter to the Danish shipping line.
In total, Hyundai is building eight 13,092TEU ships for Rickmers, all of which are for longterm charter to Maersk Line. Six are now in service and the remaining two are due for delivery in June and July. The first will be named Tauro Rickmers and renamed Maersk Evora while the second will be Libra Rickmers, to become Maersk Essex.
Maersk Elba is one of 11 super post-Panamax containerships that Maersk Line will employ on its AE10 service linking China with Northern Europe. Eight Maersk-owned ships of 15,500TEU, currently the largest container vessels in the world, will operate alongside three 13,000TEU ships including Rickmers’ Maersk Elba and Maersk Edmonton.
Maersk became the first ocean carrier to start running large deepsea vessels into the Baltic when it started calling Gdansk with its AE10 service in January 2010. At this time, it was using 8,000TEU ships.
DCT Gdansk is used as a hub for the rest of the Baltic including St Petersburg. Being ice-free and with deep water, the Polish terminal is seen as ideal for this role given that, so far, no post-Panamax ships have been built to the ice-class standards necessary for winter navigation in the Baltic.
From June 2011, the AE10 service rotation will be:
Gdansk – Aarhus – Gothenburg – Bremerhaven – Rotterdam – Algeciras – Yantian – Hong Kong – Kwangyang – Ningbo – Shanghai – Yantian - Tanjung Pelepas – Rotterdam – Bremerhaven – Gdansk.