Mega-Ships

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.
Maersk Triple E vessel Maersk Mc-kinney Moller
13 Dec 2013
When shippers look ahead to 2014, they see a repeat performance of this year, but with even more volatility. The capacity that will come with the multitude of big container ships due for delivery next year will outstrip any increases in global demand for vessel space, so carriers won’t be able to sustain the freight rate increases they will seek.
Hamburg Süd’s Cap San Nicolas was the largest container ship on the Asia-ECSA trade in Sept. 2013.
12 Dec 2013
Cascading of large container ships from the Asia-Europe market into North-South trades is significantly eroding pricing in those markets, according to Drewry.
Maersk Altair. Photo courtesy Maersk Line.
10 Dec 2013
The advent of the P3 Network and the likely expansion of other mega-alliances among the top 20 container lines mean that vessels with capacities of 8,000 to 10,000 20-foot-equivalent units will become the workhorses of the U.S. container trades, according to Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority.

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.