Managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd and rented to BYD, the Explorer No 1's maiden journey commenced in Longkou, a port city in China's Shandong province. Having made a stop in Yantai on January 9, the ship is now heading for Shenzhen, BYD's headquarters, to load additional cargo before continuing its journey to Europe, as per naval tracking data.

The China International Marine Containers Group Co. revealed in a WeChat post that the BYD Explorer No 1 marks a historic milestone as the first cargo ship crafted by a Chinese shipbuilder expressly for exporting Chinese cars. This environmentally conscious vessel is equipped with two liquefied natural gas tanks to serve as the primary fuel, contributing to reduced emissions.

As BYD solidifies its standing as China's best-selling car brand and dethrones Tesla Inc as the world's largest EV manufacturer in the fourth quarter, its global expansion has faced scrutiny. The European Union initiated an investigation in October, citing concerns about Chinese EV subsidies distorting the market.

In a separate development, BYD teased its upcoming model, the U7, from its sub-brand Yangwang, targeting the ultra-luxury segment with prices typically exceeding 1 million yuan (US$140,000). Yangwang, which commenced deliveries in late November, shipped 1,593 models in its first full month of operation in December, adding to its U8 sport utility vehicle and the yet-to-launch U9 supercar.