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China launches its first battery-electric container ship on the Yangtze River

PHOTO/ Cosco Shipping


China has reportedly launched the first-ever battery-electric container ship on the Yangtze River.

Called 700 TEU, the vessel name denotes the capacity to transport 700 20-foot containers. The electric ship typically operates on swappable batteries, which could be exchanged while on its way.

According to Marine Insight, the electric vessel’s route follows 965 km of the Yangtze River. The ship is also the first of the two intended vessels for the route and will be powered by two 900 kW propulsion engines.

The battery-swapping system of the vessel en route helps solve range anxiety. Sources suggest that 36 of the vessel’s 700-container capacity is consumed with batteries like swappable units.

The operator, Cosco Shipping Heavy Industry, disclosed during the project presentation in 2022 that the swappable battery unit has been housed in 20-foot containers that boast a capacity of about 50,000 kWh.

The ship has a length of about 120 meters and a width of about 24 meters. It weighs approximately 10,000 tons. Going by the name, the cargo capacity is nearly 700 TEUs, with each TEU subsequently corresponding to a standard 20-foot container.

The clean freighter uses an intelligent control system that enables maximum efficiency and, for instance, precisely matches the energy consumption to the vessel’s needs. The speed of the container ship depends on the planned arrival, remaining battery capacity, and currents.

In March 2023, when the ship was first declared, Cosco stated that the 700 TEU electric container ship was the world’s first sizeable all-battery container vessel for long-distance transport.

The vessel was built to realize the environmentally friendly upgrade of the waterway and offers the experience and solutions of the central state-owned firms for China’s coastal and inland shipping industry to lower emissions.

China’s government sees the Yangtze River Economic Belt as an essential assignment for China to boost green development. In April 2022, the Yangtze River Three Gorges 1 – declared the most excellent electric cruise vessel in the world – embarked on its maiden journey in Yichang in Hubei.

Relevant officials at the launch mentioned that Yichang is trying to emerge as a clean energy capital and needs to help serve the green development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

This resonates with the statements from Cosco, stating that the Yangtze River assignment will serve as a model for future ecologically friendly shipping assignments. The company started constructing the second electric container ship in May 2023.

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