Maersk Line has signed a contract with China’s COSCO Shipyard to build seven 3,600TEU container vessels.

The order for 200m-long and 35.2m-wide vessels is part of an investment programme announced by Maersk Line, which will invest $15bn into new building, retrofit programme, containers and other equipment over the next five years.

Maersk’s order also includes the option for two additional vessels, to be declared within eight months.

The new vessels will be assigned for its Seago Line, a fully owned container shipping line dedicated to short-sea services in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean region.

Maersk Line COO Søren Toft said: "I am very happy to announce this new order and the first in our investment programme.

"Our strategy is to grow with the market and to do so we need new vessels from 2017."

"Our strategy is to grow with the market and to do so we need new vessels from 2017. We expect to place additional orders during 2015."

The new vessels will be deployed in the Baltic and North Sea regions in order to trade in Northern Europe through sea ice. They will replace several container vessels, half the size or less of the new buildings.

Using marine gas oil (MGO), the new-builds will be compliant with the sulphur oxides (SOx) emission limits, which went into force this year, creating the Emission Control Area (ECA) zone in Northern Europe.

The new vessels are expected to be delivered between April and November 2017.

Earlier this year, Maersk Line signed a six-year strategic agreement with DB Schenker Logistics in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from ocean freight by 2020.

As part of this initiative, Maersk Line will take action to reduce the CO2 emissions of the shipment for DB Schenker Logistics by 20%, when compared with 2014 levels.