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The West Africa Max: Maersk Line’s specialized vessels for the Africa network

With today’s tight schedules, modern technology and communications it’s very easy to look at life on the sea purely as a business, but for Captain Gerhard Antony Ijssel de Schepper it’s a calling.

20.11.14 WAFMAX ship (for article)

As the son of a seafarer, the romance of the seas hasn’t lost its allure and like his colleague, Captain Atul Baijal, the excitement and challenges of being the Captain for one of Maersk Line’s most important class of vessels – the WAFMAX, is as thrilling as ever.

Due to their unique design, WAFMAX (or West Africa MAX) vessels are ideally suited to the West African market. The ships are 250 metres long with a draught of 13.5 metres, the maximum size allowable in West African ports. As they are equipped with on board cranes, the WAFMAX allow for more flexibility and can service ports without standing cranes.

20.11.14 WAFMAX cranes (for article)Having been a Captain for over a decade, Captain Gerhard has overseen the region’s development. ‘Twenty years ago you didn’t know when you could enter the port, when you had to leave or how long it would take to unload the cargo. But now with APM terminals in Africa and the local infrastructure developments its better regulated and more secure’ said Captain Gerhard.

‘But it’s still nowhere near the standard of Europe or Asia’ Captain Atul is quick to point out. Citing the sometimes imprecise loading and the effect it can have on the draught of a ship.

Given their unique position as frontline overseers of West African trade, even eternal optimists such as Captain Gerhard can’t help but notice the discrepancies between import and export volume. ‘It used to be that the region exported a lot of coffee, cacao and cotton, but these days there is not a lot of outbound cargo’ according to Captain Gerhard. ‘But with Nigeria’s oil production there will be an increase in exports’ said Captain Gerhard after a brief moment of reflection.

To add further dynamism to an already complex market, Captain Atul points out that there are a number of factors that are symptomatic of working in West Africa. A shift in piracy from east to west, Ebola and stowaways driven by socio-economics are all factors that WAFMAX captains must contend with.

‘But’ says Captain Gerhard with a wry smile, ‘I think I like it. It keep you sharp, you feel the adrenaline and there’s never a dull moment. Every day presents new challenges and no two days are the same. I tried an office job once, I couldn’t stay away from the seas.’

Maersk Line named Shipping Company of the Year at Automotive Supply Chain Global Awards

Maersk Line has been named Shipping Company of the Year at the Automotive Supply Chain Global awards.


Maersk Line won the award for continuing to drive sustainability in shipping by cutting emissions and helping its customers lessen the impact of their supply chains. The introduction of Triple E ships in 2013 and 2014 have set new standards on energy efficiency, while the company’s existing fleet is being retrofitted with new technologies to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance. In 2013 Maersk Line reduced CO2 by 12% in the same year that it grew by 4.1%. One Judge commented: “Maersk Line’s reliability, innovation and commitment to exceeding customer expectations is testament to what makes them a carrier of choice for many of the world’s automotive manufacturers.”

David Browne, sales director at Maersk Line UK and Ireland, collected the award on behalf of the company, and said “We work with some of the biggest automotive manufacturers in the world, and we are delighted that has been recognised with this award. We are committed to supporting our customers’ businesses and helping them grow, and would like to thank them for their continued support.”

Maersk Line, which recently announced it had made USD 685 million profit in Q3 2014, works with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Ford, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and General Motors. In 2014 it was recognised by Ford for its work on the environment and CSR at the Ford World Excellence Awards in May 2014, the first carrier to ever receive recognition.

Global Voyage Centre: energy efficiency and route optimisation

Last year, Maersk Line owned and chartered fleet comprising 550 vessels completed about 37004 voyages called 33000 ports using 380 terminals in 117 countries.

Given the sheer scope of Maersk Line’s operations, we are committed to reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. This puts energy efficiency as one of the crucial objectives. That means taking careful steps towards optimizing these 37004 voyages in terms of energy efficiency. Wondering how do we go about ensuring the successful implementation of this endeavour? That’s where Maersk Line’s Global Voyage Centre (GVC) comes into the picture.

Global Voyage Centre

The Global Voyage Centre does fascinate your eyes and senses. It hosts a giant screen that, monitors in real-time,  the position of all the Maersk Line owned and chartered vessels.  A team of senior seafarers monitors these vessels 24×7 and provides support to improve their energy performance and facilitate best practice sharing.

“The Global Voyage Centre was setup as a project in July 2013 by selecting a few Captains and Senior Navigating Officers from the fleet join the team with an objective to bridge the communication gap between the shore staff and the fleet as well as monitor the vessels on long ocean passages on a real time basis. The GVC has since evolved to take on a more proactive approach towards energy efficiency and route optimisation. It is now an integral part of the Fleet Performance team under Ship Management and works alongside other teams in the organisation to best support our owned and chartered vessels.” says Domingos Silva Jr., Head of Global Voyage Centre.

Voyage planning and execution

The voyage planning for the vessels starts a few days before the departure of the vessel. The pre-voyage assessment is carried out as the first step to support the vessel with all the necessary information to plan an efficient voyage based on the database and experience available in the team.  The best in class plan is rolled out for the vessel to follow basis this data but adjusted on case to case basis, as necessary. Following this, further guidance and dialogue is initiated with vessels to discuss considerations such as power strategy, trim optimization, and weather routing for the vessels a day or two before the voyage starts.

The GVC team also monitors the vessels in real time through the help of navigational tools and has all the information of the vessels in transit. While the vessel is sailing, the GVC team actively communicates with the Master’s onboard while monitoring and providing inputs for ETA communication, bad weather, tsunami & earthquake warnings, and stoppages at sea. The team of experts oversees that the vessels adhere to the agreed voyage plan and picks up the deviations, if any. These inputs in the end support the vessels in executing the voyages in the most efficient and economical way.

Eco Voyage / Fuel optimization

Throughout the voyage planning, one of the important aspects taken into consideration is fuel optimization which happens to be the key part of Maersk Line’s long term strategy. The ECO Voyage program in conjunction with other tools is used by vessels to carefully plan and execute the most optimal voyage. GVC provides the vessels with first level support to ensure the requisite parameters in the program are in order.

“There is a strong connection between COemissions and profitability. Maersk Line has emerged as a sustainability CSR leader and fuel optimisation remains a key part of the strategy to ensure that we are well on our way to achieve our 2020 target of 60% reduction of CO2 emissions per container over 2007 levels”, says Captain Gaurav Lal, Senior Marine Operations Manager at the Global Voyage Centre.

The close monitoring helps in contributing to the savings in bunker fuel costs. Last year, it contributed in saving USD 8.5 million bunker fuel for Maersk Line.

Our customer’s business is at the very heart of our own

For Jens Elnegaard Larsen, Operations Manager of Maersk Line’s Special Cargo division, complexity and finding solutions to challenging customer requests is part of the job. ‘I thrive on the complexity. Every day is different and involves many moving parts working in tandem’ says Jens with a grin.

Maersk Line’s Special Cargo division is one of the consistently growing segments in the company. The specialized service comes with a promise of shipping just about everything and providing solutions for in gauge, out of gauge, and break bulk cargo. We ship everything from heavy machinery, tyres, boats to live palm trees so a ‘can do attitude’ is essential says Jens. But it’s Maersk Line’s reliability promise and multiple sailings that is our real point of difference, according to Jens.

Despite being known as a ‘container shipper’, our Special Cargo offerings are a major point of difference in the eyes of our clients. ‘We see a major part of cargo being shipped from Europe to Asia. Big construction units in that geography like the ship building industry and the oil rigs have a lot of requirement for break bulk cargo; engines, propellers, thrusters and steel plates to name a few’ said Jens.


So how challenging is it to ship these customized cargo requests? Reflecting on one of the toughest projects he had, Jens talks of an Old Danish seafarer boat called Troels Klovedal. ‘Holding a place in Danish history, the boat was 70-80 years old and had been around the world 5-7 times. The boat was needed to be shipped from Malaysia to Denmark for a TV show. The boat just came in at the port and we had to take care of everything for the shipment. It was quite a challenge and one of the longest projects we carried out.’

‘It’s essential that we continue to put our customer’s business at the heart of our own’ says Jens. ‘As we are responsible for delivering a lot of factory parts, machinery et cetera. If the delivery of these parts is delayed, the customer’s bigger business deadlines are impacted.’

There are complexities and high levels of criticality associated with these shipments. That’s when Maersk Line’s reliability becomes an important factor contributing to the top class service delivered by Special Cargo unit. “Customers face huge penalties and other repercussions if they deliver too late. They need to count on their carrier” adds Jens Larsen.

There is a lot of action that goes behind the scene for these shipments. Every single project requires specialized attention to detail and is a challenge on its own. ‘We move all types and sizes of cargo, we have so far had pieces with weight up to 275mts in recent years, and sizes which was 16 x 16 x 10meters. So every project is like a puzzle to us. It requires us bring a lot of pieces together and put them in place in the perfect order for the shipment to be carried out successfully. The complexity of the job is the most amazing part.’

Decoupling business growth from resource consumption: Maersk Line announces new CO2 target




Earlier this evening, CEO of the Maersk Group Nils Smedegaard Andersen spoke at the BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) Conference in New York and outlined Maersk Line’s new CO2 target.  

Highlighting the importance of an industry-wide effort to reduce CO2 emissions, Mr Andersen announced Maersk Line’s new Carbon Emissions target, reinforcing Maersk Line’s commitment to be ‘part of the solution’.

‘Over the past years, we have driven significant energy efficiency improvements across our fleet, pioneering initiatives from speed optimisation and technical upgrades to designing new and more energy efficient ships, the Triple-E’s’ said Mr Andersen.

Efforts to ‘decouple growth from resource consumption’

MAERSK Our People Denmark 48Since 2007 Maersk Line has cut the average CO2 impact of a container by more than a third. Simultaneously, Maersk Line’s focus on energy efficiency has made the company significantly more cost competitive thereby decoupling growth from resource consumption

Maersk Line has set itself a bold new target of reducing CO2 emissions per container moved by 60%, relatively to 2007 standards. This is up from a previous 40% mark set last year.

This means that in 2020 we will have increased our volumes by 80% while cutting our absolute emissions by 15 million tons. In this way we can continue to grow our business and help increase trade without increasing our impact on the environment.

‘Maersk Line’s focus on energy efficiency enables us to be cost competitive while fulfilling our ambition to grow responsibly. That is why we are decoupling growth from resource consumption to achieve this’ says Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer for Maersk Line.