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.

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

Port of Rotterdam. Photo: travelfoto /
28 Jul 2014
Worsening congestion at the port of Rotterdam has prompted two short sea and feeder shipping lines to impose surcharges of around $100 per container.
Majestic Maersk in port at Ningbo, China
30 Aug 2013
Mega-ships are both bane and opportunity for container lines, reducing per-container costs while simultaneously fueling overcapacity that puts pressure on freight rates.
30 Aug 2013
United Arab Shipping Co. has placed a $1.4 billion order for five 18,000-TEU container ships and five 14,000-TEU vessels with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Majestic Maersk in port at Ningbo, China
20 Aug 2013
NINGBO, China — Maersk Line’s second Triple E container ship, Majestic Maersk, made its maiden call at China’s Ningbo port, in east China’s Zhenjiang province, on Aug. 16.
CMA CGM Marco Polo
13 Aug 2013
CMA CGM vessels may become part of the Daily Maersk service from Asia to Europe next year when the French carrier joins Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co. in the new P3 Network.
12 Aug 2013
Black Sea ports most likely will not receive vessels of 10,000 20-foot-equivalent units in the near future, as the ports are not prepared and productivity is too low, according to the latest issue of SeaIntel Sunday Spotlight.


Other than last week’s stunning collapse of the P3 Network, there’s arguably no hotter issue in the container shipping world than port productivity.

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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.