Can Ports Prepare for Giant Container Ships?

Nelson CabreraNews, Ocean FreightLeave a Comment

Ports and terminals are looking into what preparations may be necessary to accommodate the future of ocean shipping, giant container ships with capacities in upwards of 22,000 20-foot equivalent units. A.P. Moller – Maersk believes that this size ship is going to be a part of the future fleet generation. They are beginning to take action in the form of drawing up plans to handle this size ocean shipping vessel at the terminal.

A.P. Moller – Maersk’s sister company Maersk Line is gearing up to launch the world’s largest ocean shipping vessels of 18,000 TEUs onto the Asia-Europe trade in 2013, according to an article on the Journal of Commerce web site. Problems with ships like these are expected at the terminal level, so many things need to be considered. “Improved engineering, camera-assisted and remote control of the crane operations are some solution for the noted issues, but increased power requirements may also pose obstacles, particularly in emerging economies with power generation or supply issues.”

“There are issues of structural stiffness, weight, visibility and wind load which all must be taken into account with cranes of such dimensions, along with the question of upgrading existing equipment or installing new cranes entirely,” Ross told the TOC Container Supply Chain Asia conference in Hong Kong.

No ships with the 22,000 TEU capacity have been constructed, but plans to facilitate their use are already in effect. The Crane Engineering Services Manager for A.P. Moller – Maersk’s port operating unit, Halfdan Ross, says that, “While none have been ordered yet, studies have been completed on the feasibility of constructing container ships with a 22,000 TEUs capacity…so planning for crane and other infrastructure support to accommodate such vessels and their container volumes is a very necessary exercise for any major port hub. The point is that ultra-large vessels are already in service, and even larger vessels will follow, and so the time to prepare the necessary terminal and quay infrastructure is now.”

153 ocean container ships were on order as of February 1, 2012 with capacities exceeding 10,000 TEUs, according to the Journal of Commerce. A.P. Moller Maersk says that 20 of those are included; Maersk Line’s 18,000 TEUs EEE Class ocean shipping vessels. There are currently 121 vessels of 10,000 TEUs and higher in service.

Carrier analyst Alphaliner says that they don’t predict that everyone will follow this trend of ultra-large ships. They don’t expect to see ocean freight vessels larger than 10,000 TEUs “across the Pacific in the near future as they are unlikely to be able to fully utilize the capacity of such ships on the route.” For example, “The MSC Fabiola is more than 25 percent larger than any other vessel to call on the US West Coast, it was only 70 percent full when it arrived in Long Beach and is not scheduled to make another trans-Pacific rotation after its maiden call. Instead, MSC will deploy three smaller 11,600-TEU ships.”


Nelson Cabrera
Nelson leads global business development efforts within ShipLilly and has been featured as a logistics expert in numerous publications, including SupplyChainBrain, The Bulletin Panama, Logistics Management, and the Miami Herald.

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