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, especially 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, the giant 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

Maersk Line Triple E mega-ship Majestic Maersk
24 Mar 2014
The millennia-old insurance principle called general average, which pools the cargo and hull liabilities in a marine disaster, won’t work in an age when container ships of up to 18,000 20-foot equivalent units might be lost.
05 Oct 2013
Christening ceremonies were held Friday in Los Angeles for the APL Savannah, a container ship capable of carrying 9,200 20-foot container units that exemplifies the direction the carrier is taking with its massive vessel order book.
04 Oct 2013
Importers and exporters see a different side of container carrier mega-alliances operating mega-ships and dumping large container volumes on marine terminals, roadways and intermodal railroads. They see a supply chain beset by mega-problems.
27 Sep 2013
Søren Skou, chief executive of Maersk Line, has admitted that the Danish company misjudged the strength in demand for container shipping when it ordered 20 18,000-TEU vessels...
27 Sep 2013
Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries has commissioned Kalmar to increase the operating height of four ship-to-shore cranes for APM Terminals Algeciras in southern Spain.
bunkering container ships
16 Sep 2013
Shippers who hoped the advent of big new fuel-efficient container ships would cut their fuel surcharges are being disappointed.

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Commentary

In my 42-plus years in the industry, I’ve seen many variations of what we now call alliances — joint services, slot-charter arrangements, vessel-sharing agreements, alliances and now mega-alliances — and more no doubt will follow.

Video

Acting Long Beach Port Director Al Moro talks about the ambitious projects to prepare the port for the big new container ships that are calling there. POLB and private investors are providing billions of dollars to build new rail lines and a huge automated container terminal, as well as to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge, which is too low for the new ships.