Mega-Ships

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

14 Nov 2016
A global shippers group is questioning whether the savings container lines enjoy through the deployment of mega-ships, alliances, slow steaming, and consolidation are being fairly shared with importers and exporters, urging for a new commercial contract between shippers and liners.
04 Nov 2016
The port of Liverpool on Friday officially inaugurated a new deep-sea container terminal as it works to create a new ocean trading gateway to re-jig the national supply chain.
As newer mega-ships such as the MSC Maya, pictured, continue to enter service on the Asia-Europe trade, ships with capacities of as many as 13,000 TEUs will have to find new deployments on less busy routes.
31 Oct 2016
Container lines face “huge” headaches as they seek routes to deploy vessels made redundant on the Asia-Europe trade lane.
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.

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.