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Shenzhen-based BYD is now using purpose-built EV cargo ships to send its cars to Europe. The first ship, with room for 7,000 cars, sets sail from Shenzhen today, as the automaker ramps up exports of electric vehicles.

The “BYD Explorer No. 1” roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) ship, carrying 5,449 new energy vehicles, leaves Xiaomo International Logistics Port in Shenshan Special Cooperation Zone today for Europe, destined for the ports of Vlissingen in the Netherlands and Bremerhaven in Germany.

The car carrier is managed by the international shipping company Zodiac Maritime and is exclusively leased to BYD, according to China International Marine Containers Group Co. (CIMC), which built the vessel.

The vessel, measuring 199.9 meters long and 38 meters wide, is the first Chinese-built cargo ship for exporting Chinese cars, according to CIMC. It is equipped with two tanks to store liquefied natural gas, which will be used as its main fuel in order to reduce emissions.

This marks the beginning of an era promoting domestic vehicle shipments and reinforces China’s leading position in the international car carrier market, opening new pathways for Chinese automotive companies to expand overseas.

BYD’s foray into the maritime sector became public knowledge in December last year. The company confirmed its ship chartering plans, revealing the chartering of two roll-on/roll-off carriers from Yantai in East China’s Shandong Province.

BYD, having conquered its home market to become China’s best-selling car brand, is expanding overseas at a rapid click. It clinched the crown of the world’s largest EV manufacturer from Tesla Inc. in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Separately, BYD on Wednesday teased the next model, the U7, from its sub-brand Yangwang, cars that are aimed at the ultra-luxury segment and typically cost upwards of 1 million yuan (US$140,000).

The new sedan adds to Yangwang’s U8 sport utility vehicle and a yet-to-launch supercar, the U9. BYD started delivering Yangwang cars in late November, meaning December was the sub-brand’s first full month, when 1,593 units were shipped.