The rise of ‘mega-ships’ (often defined as ships with a capacity greater than 10,000 TEUs) took place in earnest during the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. In their search for greater fuel efficiency and economies of scale, the world’s container carriers increasingly ordered larger and larger vessels, especially for use on the Asia-Europe trade lane.

Until the development of mega-ships, carriers that sought to service the East Coast of North America with the earlier generation of ‘post-Panamax’ ships needed to transit the Suez Canal because those vessels were too big to sail through the Panama Canal. 

With the gradual introduction of the mega-ships, the average capacity of container ships deployed on the Asia-Europe trade lane has become especially large.

Despite the cost-effectiveness of mega-ships, some major North American ports have faced the challenge of mitigating the bottlenecks at marine terminals that result from container exchanges involving such massive volumes of cargo.

At sea, other sorts of challenges may stem from the fact that there are so many containers on these huge vessels. Several high-profile (even deadly) fires on mega-ships have highlighted the dangers of packing so many containers onto a single vessel, while driving up related insurance costs. In addition, the enormous capacity of such mega-ships often raises the probability that dangerous goods may have been loaded aboard.

Several fires on board container ships have been caused by hazardous or flammable cargo that was misdeclared. One of the most common culprits is calcium hypochlorite, used to treat drinking water and swimming pools. While this chemical may be carried on board ships, there are stringent guidelines regarding how it should be carried. Some less scrupulous shippers have misdeclared it as fertilizer or as other more stable compounds in order to avoid paying a higher freight rate.

Alerted to such risks, ship operators, insurers and regulators are increasingly focusing on the chemicals, batteries and other goods that can trigger or feed a fire.

08 Jul 2020
Jaxport’s $484 million project, due to be complete in 2023, will provide a wider vessel turning basin and the ability to handle two post-Panamax vessels simultaneously in SSA’s Blount Island Terminal.
14 Nov 2019
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam unveiled an international trade plan to boost exports by 50 percent in the next 15 years, a key initiative since laden exports fell between January and August for the second consecutive year.
14 Aug 2019
Evergreen Marine has plunged deeper into the mega-ship operating space, ordering another 11 ships in addition to the 11 that are already being built and delivered.
24 Jul 2019
It has taken many years, but finally dredging work on the crucial river access to Europe’s third-largest port has begun.
09 May 2019
The economic and trade forecasts for 2019 are mixed, but in volume terms the year is off to a good start, as evidenced by a strong first quarter for Hapag-Lloyd.
06 May 2019
Shippers that import and export goods through the Port of Houston are being urged to contact legislators and express opposition to two bills that would limit mega-ship calls at the port to one a week.
The Port of Los Angeles.
25 Jan 2019
Mega-ships and California environmental regulatory pressure is pushing APM Terminals to automate 100 acres of its Los Angeles facility.
21 Jan 2019
Asia-Europe carriers are expected to deploy a host of strategies to absorb the mega-ship capacity coming online this year.
Rotterdam port.
18 Jan 2019
Given current factors in the two trade lanes, there was little chance rates would strengthen.
Port of Los Angeles.
09 Jan 2019
Competitors demonstrate that West Coast ports need to efficiently transfer containers to trucks and trains, as well ship-to-port, to retain shipper business.
Port of Vancouver.
07 Jan 2019
Excessive rail dwell times continue to be a problem.
The Port of New York and New Jersey.
11 Dec 2018
At the JOC Port Performance North America Conference in Newark, New Jersey, on Tuesday, a key technical director offered insights regarding how to increase port productivity as ships get bigger, including what stakeholders should expect from automation.
Maersk Magleby container ship.
07 Dec 2018
A $6.9 million federal grant will enable the Port of Baltimore to dredge to 50 feet a berth at its only container terminal, enabling the terminal to better handle growing cargo volumes by hosting two mega-ships at once.
Port of Los Angeles.
04 Dec 2018
Ocean carriers will have even more reason to show trans-Pacific capacity discipline, if Sea-Intelligence’s demand forecast proves to be accurate; however, a current container shipping trend may make that doubly hard.
Chassis near a port.
04 Dec 2018
The port authorities involved believe the current total is good enough for now, but how long that remains the case, and what action they would take moving forward, depends on several factors.
Port of Philadelphia.
27 Nov 2018
With the completion of a dredging project by the end of the first quarter of 2019, the Port of Philadelphia will have the depth needed to attract larger ships with considerably more cargo — the first phase of a $300 million port upgrade.
Rotterdam port at sunrise.
16 Nov 2018
Those who want to end the legal framework exempting liner shipping consortia from European Union antitrust rules say it would increase competition and therefore shipper choice. But this is an instance where the solution may ultimately lead to an outcome that’s worse than the current condition.
Port of Hamburg.
16 Nov 2018
Port of Hamburg marketing joint CEO Ingo Egloff said the vital infrastructure project was being blocked by objections from environmental pressure groups, which he said was unacceptable.
Port of New York and New Jersey.
05 Oct 2018
In the decade ahead, the Port of New York and New Jersey will face intensifying competition — from multiple ports — for discretionary cargo. With the authority’s head of seaport departing, the moment requires the hiring of a leader with in-depth knowledge and experience overseeing container cargo moves through a complex, multimodal system.
CMA CGM Teddy Roosevelt.
24 Sep 2018
The peak season on the US East Coast in the weeks ahead could provide a test regarding whether the Port of New York and New Jersey can handle the increased volume and surges in activity generated by mega-ships.
Port of Halifax.
11 Sep 2018
The port of Halifax’s volume has grown amid the global economic recovery, and now it has a flexible expansion plan to position it for even greater volume and bigger ships.
23 May 2018
The Canadian East Coast’s very stable market has recently changed significantly: it’s in a state of turmoil with many container port projects being considered — Quebec City (Beauport); Dartmouth, Halifax; Montreal (Contrecoeur); Melford, Nova Scotia; and Sydney, Nova Scotia (Novaporte).
10 Apr 2018
The new order for mega-ships gives Hyundai Merchant Marine the container shipping industry's third-largest orderbook.
16 Mar 2018
The biggest ship in CMA CGM's fleet called at Hamburg this week, but even though the port has the infrastructure to handle mega-ships, the delay in dredging the Elbe River access channel continues to hold back volume growth.
28 Feb 2018
HMM says mega-ships will be ordered in the first half of 2018 but provided no info on the number of vessels or their sizes.
27 Feb 2018
Analysts are trying to figure out HMM's growth plans, with the South Korean carrier widely expected to place its mega-ship order.
26 Jan 2018
The mega-ships continue to flood in to the Asia-North Europe container trade lane.
12 Jan 2018
The orders come after Cosco and Yang Ming delayed delivery of roughly 200,000 TEU of capacity to 2019 amid signs overcapacity remains in the market.
Container shipping capacity is something shippers pay close attention to as the supply-demand balance has a direct impact on freight rate levels.
10 Jan 2018
As capacity floods into service, some carriers have started to delay the delivery of new mega-ships.
22 Nov 2017
The Port of New York and New Jersey hosted its first 14,000 TEU ship on a regular service without a hitch Tuesday.
15 Nov 2017
Yang Ming and HMM have said it is too early to confirm whether mega-ships will be included on their order books.
31 Oct 2017
The Charleston dredging project has proceeded quickly through a series of milestones since the corps recommended the deepening in 2010.
23 Oct 2017
By 2020, hub ports in Europe can expect the vast majority of all calls to be made by ships with a capacity greater than 14,000 TEU.
22 Oct 2017
How the Port of New York and New Jersey handles the ramp up in business will go a long way in determining the port’s future growth.
17 Oct 2017
The landside ability of the supply chain to handle volume generated by mega-ships must improve before carriers can achieve the lower unit costs their deployment promises.


The Port of New York and New Jersey will face multiple-port competition for discretionary cargo in the decade ahead and with the head of the seaport departing, that intensifying competition calls out for a leader with operating experience.