Seeking efficiency and economies of scale, the world’s container carriers are increasingly ordering mega-ships capable of handling more than 8,000 20-foot-equivalent container units, with even larger vessels appearing particularly on the Asia-Europe trade lane. Shippers and carriers looking to reach the North American east coast with these post-Panamax ships must transit the Suez Canal because, as their name implies, they are too big to sail through the Panama Canal. But with Panama’s decade-long canal expansion project set for completion in 2015, many larger vessels will be able to add the Panama Canal to their route options. Ports around the world are preparing for the onslaught of these mega-ships, dredging harbors and investing in super-post-Panamax cranes that can reach across 22 or more rows of containers to expedite loading and unloading operations.

Special Coverage

When the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin pulled out of Los Angeles in late December after an unprecedented effort by the port community to work the largest container ship ever to call at a North American port, no one was prouder than the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

News & Analysis

12 Jan 2017
In late 2016, JOC.com spoke with the Port of Los Angeles' Christopher Chase about getting the details right when it comes to handling mega-ships.
07 Sep 2016
HHLA, the largest terminal operator in Hamburg, Europe’s third-largest port, has exercised an option for three more ship-to-shore cranes.
The APM Terminals facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, will be able to handle ships with capacities of 13,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units upon completion of the new investments.
31 Aug 2016
APM Terminals is to invest millions in a new berth at its Port Elizabeth terminal in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
29 Aug 2016
An 11-year high tide combined with beach erosion to shut down South America’s busiest port and cast doubt on plans to dredge deeper so the port can handle larger ships.
The 13,000-TEU MSC Cristina, pictured at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, is the largest ship to ever call at an Indian port, and the completion of dredging at JNPT will make calls of similar vessels more common.
09 Aug 2016
India’s busiest container handler this week launched phase two of a dredging project to handle mega-ships.
30 Jul 2016
Ports in the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Northwest are planning feverishly for the larger cargo surges they know will occur in the coming years from big ships operated by powerful carrier alliances.

Commentary

Recent industry comments suggest carriers are being cautious in ordering new capacity — new ship orders are down substantially versus 2015 — and also will be cautious on capacity as alliances roll out their service networks. This is leading a number of observers to suggest that the container market gradually may be returning to equilibrium.