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

24 Oct 2016
Multiple calls by large vessels on certain days of the week, known as vessel bunching, are straining the equipment and labor resources at US ports and presenting a growing threat to productivity at container terminals.
19 Oct 2016
Los Angeles and Long Beach have served as a laboratory for creative measures to cope with the growing container volumes and the surges of cargo from mega-ships that have also challenged other US ports.
30 Sep 2016
US ports so far have been doing a reasonably good job loading and unloading mega-ships within the required berthing windows, but carriers’ relentless deployment of ever-larger vessels will soon catch up with terminal operators.
30 Sep 2016
Colombo International Container Terminals this week hosted the MSC Maya, reportedly the largest container ship ever to call Sri Lankan shores.
Feeder vessels take cargo delivered to transshipment hubs and gateway ports by mega-ships, such as the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, pictured, to smaller ports unable to handle such behemoths.
16 Sep 2016
CMA CGM is outsourcing some of its global feeder operations in a move rival carriers likely will follow.
13 Sep 2016
Container traffic at the port of Salalah, operated by APM Terminals, surged in the first half of the year.


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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