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

The 12,500-TEU MSC Fabiola broke records when it first called at California ports in 2012.
West Coast ports will spend the coming year in much the same way they spent the past year: preparing for big ships operated by big carrier alliances.

News & Analysis

19 Nov 2014
Ports are set to dominate container shipping strategy with the focus on terminal productivity and capacity expansion, industry analysts said at the JOC Group’s Port Performance Conference Europe in London.
22 May 2014
The Georgia Ports Authority board this week approved $86.5 million to buy four new ship-to-shore cranes and 20 new rubber-tired gantry cranes to allow the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal to accommodate bigger ships and provide faster handling.
Seaspan CEO and co-chairman Gerry Wang
12 May 2014
In an interview with JOC’s Greg Knowler, Seaspan CEO and co-chairman Gerry Wang discusses changing container carrier priorities, mega-ships and why the shipowner welcomes downturns.
Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller
23 Apr 2014
What is today a small club of carriers operating or having ordered 18,000-TEU ships or larger is likely to grow, but not necessarily overnight, as carriers intensify their focus on reducing costs without regard to greater market or infrastructure implications.
21 Apr 2014
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma offer advantages to shipping lines that many ports would love to have — naturally deep water, more than enough container-handling space and excellent on and near-dock intermodal rail infrastructure. But in order to take full advantage, the ports are faced with a stark reality: they must invest heavily to upgrade facilities that were designed for vessels that are half the size of the ships with capacities of 8,000 to 10,000 20-foot container units that carriers are already beginning to deploy in their Pacific Northwest services.
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.

Commentary

The port bottlenecks that flow directly from the profusion of big ships truly hit home this year, with cargo delays being felt from Asia to Latin America, traced back to the bigger ships calling at ports ill-equipped to handle them.

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.