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

01 May 2016
Ports will have to compete for business as never before over the next decade, Port of Long Beach CEO Jon Slangerup said.
21 Apr 2016
The visionary Global Trade and Logistics Complex that will revolutionize the transfer of cargo between vessels and truck and rail transportation on the West Coast is taking shape in the middle of the Port of Oakland.
20 Apr 2016
The much-anticipated launch of a weekly service with six mega-ships, each with a capacity of almost 18,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, to Long Beach and Oakland is being delayed, having fallen victim to the extremely low freight rates freight rates in the trans-Pacific trade.
20 Apr 2016
Mega-ships have a detrimental impact on supply chains by reducing capacity for just-in-time production and forcing factories to increase safety stocks, according to the transport procurement head of a major global shipper.
06 Apr 2016
Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines is negotiating with Hyundai Heavy Industries to purchase up to three mega-ships with capacities of 14,500 twenty-foot-equivalent units.
05 Apr 2016
A group of customs brokers and forwarders has urged the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to ask more questions before granting container lines’ requests to form vessel-sharing agreements for “super-vessels.”

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

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.
Port of Virginia's John Reinhart on their strategy of making many smaller improvements for a lasting, sustained change to operations to expand with the industry.
South Carolina Ports Authority CEO and President Jim Newsome sat down with JOC.com Executive Editor Mark Szakonyi on the sidelines of JOC.com’s annual Port Performance North America Conference in December to discuss the Port of Charleston’s strong performance in 2015, the port’s future prospects amid slowing global trade, and the steps it's taking to handle mega-ships that will soon call at East Coast ports.