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.

News & Analysis

APMT hopes that new cranes able to handle some of the largest mega-ships afloat, pictured, will help transform Pecem, Brazil, into a regional container hub.
21 Jul 2016
APM Terminals and port owner Cearaportus hope to turn the Brazilian Port of Pecem into a regional east coast South America hub.
The 18,000-TEU CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, pictured in San Francisco Bay during a call to the Port of Oakland in February, could be one of the mega-ships the Ocean Alliance plans to deploy to the U.S. West Coast.
19 Jul 2016
The Ocean Alliance plans to deploy the largest ships ever seen by U.S ports on the trans-Pacific trade.
HMM's new ships will replace vessels with 4,600 TEUs as container lines continue to upsize the ships they send through the Panama Canal.
11 Jul 2016
Hyundai Merchant Marine plans to deploy six ships with capacities of 10,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units on an existing Asia-U.S. East Coast service via the enlarged Panama Canal.
The MOL Benefactor passes through the enlargened Panama Canal on its way to the Port of New York and New Jersey.
07 Jul 2016
This week’s arrival of the largest ship ever to dock at the Port of New York and New Jersey is bringing into focus the challenges the port faces in adapting to an era of fewer, but larger ships.
01 Jul 2016
Trains are a critical tool that can be used to relieve port congestion, but in Europe they face a number of challenges.
22 Jun 2016
Mega-ships are finding their way into the Asia-Africa and Asia-South America trades.

Commentary

When the 3,351-TEU container ship Rena grounded off New Zealand in 2011, the cargo losses totaled $1 billion, and the salvage operation took seven months. The loss pales in comparison to what’s at stake as the latest generation of container ships approach 20,000 20-foot-equivalent units.

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Video

JOC Senior Content Editor Alessandra Barrett and Port of Virginia Chief Sales Officer Tom Capozzi got together at the 16th TPM Conference discuss the Port of Virginia’s ability to handle mega-ships efficiently, capacity expansion efforts, and future prospects of trade with Cuba.
At the 16th TPM Conference JOC Senior Content Editor Alessandra Barrett and Norfolk Southern Railway Director of International Intermodal Randy Bayles discuss how the expansion of the Panama Canal has impacted how NS serves ports on the U.S. East Coast and the challenges presented to intermodal rail providers by container surges from mega-ships.
Port of Los Angeles' Gene Seroka on current status of preparations for mega ships as the opening of an expanded Panama Canal approaches in 2016. Seroka details projects such as the Alameda Corridor, planned to handle trains 50 years into the future, the repurposing of land into "peel-off" yards, and revolutionary technology platforms from the U.S. DOT to Uber-like operations for less-than-truckload shipping.