By R. Bruce Striegler

Direct from the west coast of North America to Australasia

The China Navigation Company, known in the shipping industry as “CNCo” is the deep-sea shipping company founded by British trader John Samuel Swire in 1872 .The original company operated passenger and cargo paddle steamers up the Yangtze River from its Shanghai base. The oldest privately-owned and operating unit of the Swire Group of London, CNCo today is headquartered in Singapore. In Vancouver, Andrew Wong, Swire Shipping’s Southbound Trade Manager (North America) explains why Canadian shippers should take notice. “We are the only breakbulk operator serving North America / Oceania direct, and our CNCo-owned multi-purpose vessels offer unsurpassed flexibility and the ability to handle a wide variety of cargos.”

Mr. Wong says that CNCo’s west coast North American service, launched in 2004 as a dedicated breakbulk liner service, links Vancouver (Canada), Vancouver (Washington) and Los Angeles with key ports in Australia and New Zealand. “Our southbound focus is on pulp and lumber from Canada and machinery volumes from the U.S. Northbound, our cargoes are generally steel or aluminium with some containers.” He adds that the schedule is on a 33-day frequency, noting that transit from Brisbane to Los Angeles is 17 days. “Our largest ports for loading are Vancouver WA and Vancouver B.C. We transport pulp and lumber from B.C., also calling at Crofton and Harmac on Vancouver Island as required, and from Vancouver WA, we have a ‘call on arrival’ agreement with Western Star trucks, handling all its exports to Australia and New Zealand.” He says that CNCo carries some project cargos from the Alberta oil sands through both the Vancouver ports outbound to Australia.

Twenty-four new builds begin entering service

CNCo / Swire Shipping owns and manages a global network of container, multi-purpose, general cargo and dry bulk carriers as well as shipping agency businesses around the Pacific Rim. The North American route is one of nine that provide service between more than 130 ports in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Europe, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and North America. Wong says, “Currently, we operate 18-owned and ten chartered vessels in our nine services. In the next several years we have 24 newbuilds coming on line. Twelve of those are 39,500 tonne handysize bulk carriers, eight are 31,000 tonne S Class ships and four are 22,000 tonne multi-purpose Chief Class vessels designed for the Papua New Guinea service.”

The first of CNCo’s eight ‘S Class’ multi-purpose vessels launched from Zhejiang Ouhua Shipyard in China on January 1, 2013 and entered service in March of this year. The second of the 31,000 tonne vessels followed not long after. Andrew Wong says that CNCo expects the final ship will be delivered by October this year. “These multi-purpose, fuel efficient vessels are the first series of ships we’ve ordered from a mainland Chinese yard, will provide our customers with additional capacity, heavy lift capability (up to 120 tonnes) and increase cargo flexibility through north, east and south-eastern Asian key markets, Australia, New Zealand and the island nations of the South Pacific.”

The new ships feature low-friction anti-fouling paint, optimized hull design, and numerous features to reduce power requirements and fuel consumption, including a vessel performance system and electronically controlled main engine. Reinforcing CNCo’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the new vessels have double-skinned fuel and lube oil tanks, ballast water treatment systems, a three stage oily water separator and advanced incineration and garbage compacting systems.

In March CNCo confirmed an order with China’s Chengxi Shipyard for four additional 39,500 tonne ‘Bdelta’ handysize bulk carriers, bringing the total order to twelve, with the first vessel scheduled for delivery by January 2014. Designed to lower fuel consumption and provide greater cargo capacity, the vessels have five double skin cargo holds to carry bulk shipments such as grain, coal, concentrates and a variety of project cargos. Four electric deck cranes each rated at 30 tonne capacity with a maximum reach of 26 metres can be combined for a maximum lift of 60 tonnes. As they come into service, these new vessels will operate on the company’s global routes.

A leader in shipping sustainability and environmental issues

China Navigation Company is a founding member of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), an industry coalition working to achieve a vision of a shipping industry that is both profitable and sustainable by 2040. SSI is composed of more than 19 international companies including Maersk Line, Cargill, Lloyd’s Register and Daewoo Shipbuilding who have joined with other ship owners and builders, engineers and non-governmental organizations including the World Wildlife Fund. Mr. Wong says that SSI working groups will present findings later this fall to guide the industry toward environmental and financial sustainability, improve methods for building and disposing of ships, develop financing models that promote sustainable shipping, facilitate new low-energy technologies and implement credible rating systems for good shipping practices. He says, “All our newbuild ships will have a ‘green passport’ that covers all the materials used in the ship and ensures that as much as possible can be recycled.”

Andrew Wong goes on to say that the emission control areas have been a challenge in the past year. In 2010, the International Maritime Organization amended the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships, designating specific portions of U.S., Canadian and French waters as Emission Control Areas (ECA). The North American ECA came into force in 2012, requiring ships to reduce their emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and fine particulate matter. Mr. Wong says, “For calls at U.S. and Canadian ports we must use low-sulphur fuel, which has dramatically increased our bunker fuel costs by up to $90,000 per vessel coming into the North American control area.”

In addition to assigning a high priority to environmental and sustainability measures, China Navigation Company also prides itself on its safety practices. Mr. Wong notes that the company was presented with Lloyd’s List Asia Safety Award in November 2012. “We’ve worked hard to communicate our safety polices across our fleet with a ‘top-down, bottom-up’ approach that includes introducing near-miss reporting, placing digital safety counters aboard ships and shore operations, as well as implementing a safety committee which meets every two weeks.”