United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) has exercised its options for six more 14,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) vessels from South Korean ship builder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

The new order, which stems from the new-building contract that was signed by both parties last year, brings the total order to 16 ships, and is the largest in UASC’s history and worth more than $2bn including all options.

According to the company, the vessels will be the largest, most technologically advanced and environmentally friendly container vessels ever built.

UASC chairman Salem Ali Al Zaabi stated that the exercising of the vessel purchase options is an integral part of the new-building contract UASC signed in August 2013.

"This vessel order positions UASC to deliver on its long-term growth objectives and the unique design features of the vessels ensure that UASC will set new industry benchmarks for fuel economy and environmental performance," Al Zaabi said.

The overall order along with the newly exercised options, includes five 14,000 TEU and five 18,000 TEU new-buildings, with deliveries scheduled to take place late this year and from the first half of 2015, respectively.

UASC board director Dr Abdul Aziz Al-Ohaly said: "This is a critical step for the company to deliver on its long-term growth objectives."

The company is aiming to improve its competitiveness in the key trade route between Asia and Europe, where it plans to deploy the 18,000 TEU vessels.

Image: UASC and HHI officials at the signing ceremony in Dubai. Photo: courtesy of UASC.