Maersk Line, the world's largest ocean container carrier, is poised to pull even further ahead of its rivals this week with the launch of the world's largest container ship.
The vessel, due to be delivered to Maersk on Saturday, will be able to carry up to 13,000 TEUs, more than 4,000 more than the current largest container vessels in service.
The ship, currently known only as newbuilding L-203, will be named at the Odense-Lindo shipyard in Denmark, owned by Maersk's Copenhagen-based parent A.P. Moller-Maersk.
Maersk never reveals details of the cargo volume of its ships, but naval architects and industry experts say the nominal capacity of the new vessel could be as high as 15,000 TEUs based on its reported length of 399 metres and width of 55 meters.
The ship's actual carrying capacity will be lower due to safety features and other restrictions but it will still be much bigger than the largest vessels currently in service or the 10,000 TEUs ships on order at South Korean yards.
The new vessel, which will be followed by similar-sized ships, will give Maersk a lead time of around four years over rival carriers because the world's shipyards are full until 2008 or 2009 and cannot deliver new ships until the beginning of the next decade.
Maersk has consistently led the move to bigger ships. It was the first to introduce 6,000-TEUs vessels with the launch of the Regina Maersk in the mid-1990s. Maersk's current order book stands at 120 ships with a total capacity of around 640,000 TEUs.
The new ship is due to enter service on Sept. 14 after completing its sea trails, with a maiden voyage from Gothenburg that will also call at Bremerhaven, Rotterdam and Algeciras, before transiting the Suez Canal en route to Singapore, Japan and its final destination, Hong Kong.
Other leading ocean container carriers have recently placed orders for large box ships, including CMA CGM which booked four 9,600-TEU vessels, at estimated cost of $130 million each, at Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea;German charter shipowner Claus-Peter Offen, who ordered four 9,700-TEUs vessels at the same yard; and Zim Integrated Shipping Services, which ordered four 10,000-TEUs ships at Korea's Hanjin Heavy Industries that will be chartered to APL. Mediterranean Shipping Co. also ordered four 9,600-TEUs vessels at Hyundai Heavy Industries.