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.
The Port of Long Beach's new fireboat, Protector.
08 Jun 2016
A mega-fireboat is dedicated to protect mega-ships in Long Beach.
31 May 2016
The Port of Chennai said it has completed a dredging project to make it the deepest in India, but it is holding off on plans to build an outer harbor because of slumping traffic.
30 May 2016
2M restructures its Asia-North Europe services to better manage its scale.
26 May 2016
Hyundai Merchant Marine has said its financial restructuring will allow it to acquire mega-ships.
24 May 2016
Redevelopment of the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 moved forward this week.


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.

More Commentary