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.
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.
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.

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.