Containership capacity growth appears to have reached a plateau for now, with no owners or operators looking to go beyond 19,000 teu. Nevertheless, technical experts expect larger containerships to eventually enter service, once infrastructure constraints have been overcome.
At the moment, though, the biggest ships in the pipeline are for China Shipping, with CSCL Globe due for delivery in November reported to have a nominal capacity of 19,000 teu. United Arab Shipping Co has 18,800 teu vessels on order; Mediterranean Shipping Co will soon be receiving 18,400 teu ships, while Maersk’s Triple-Es have a nominal intake of 18,270 teu. CMA CGM has recently upgraded ships on order, which will now be around 17,800 teu. What they all have in common is their length, just under 400 m, which is regarded as the practical maximum for now, according to Marcus Ihms, containership expert at classification society DNV GL.
Beam is another potential limiting factor, with cranes needed to handle broader ships, and the greater rolling forces of a very wide vessel making it inadvisable to load cargo on deck. Where designers can obtain additional capacity within those limitations is through the siting of the engine room or accommodation block. Moving the engine room, for example, can create as much as 250 teu of extra cargo space.
What is clear, he told the Containerisation International-Lloyd’s List Global Liner Shipping conference in Hamburg, are the economies of scale of the larger ships that are now being delivered. The slot costs of, say, a 21,000 teu ship, are as much as 10% lower than for a 14,000 teu vessel.
An 18,000 teu ship would still have cheaper slot costs than a 14,000 teu vessel even at 90% rather than 100% utilisation. Although ship designers have been talking about vessels of up to 24,000 teu, Mr Ihms told delegates that no carriers were thought to be looking beyond 19,000 teu right now.
However, ships of more than 400 m have been built in the past, most notably the 564,650 dwt ultra large crude carrier Jahre Viking, which was 458 m long. ER Schiffahrt chief executive Hermann Klein told Containerisation International that he expected ship sizes to continue growing, albeit not as rapidly as in recent years Dr Klein, the former head of Germanischer Lloyd and one of the first in the world to predict the arrival of 18,000 teu ships, anticipates that containerships will eventually exceed 400 m in length and so go beyond 19,000 teu. “There is no technical limitation,” he said.
But first, the ports need to be ready to handle the next generation of containerships. That will require larger cranes, dredging, higher bridges in some cases, and other infrastructure investments. Source: Lloydsloadinglist.com
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