Hannu Karp, Senior Manager of Digital Services at Kalmar, has analysed whether digitalised supply chains and e-commerce threaten the rise of megaships in the company’s latest blog post.
A recent trend within the industry has witnessed shipping lines continuously investing in larger vessels, yet the “efficiencies of scale” that megaships are supposed to provide have been counteracted by the lack of growth in container volumes.
In order to battle subsequent overcapacity, Hannu Karp suggests that shipping lines have “adjusted their transport capacity” by “lowering sailing speeds”.
This has posed a significant challenge to terminals, “since vessels visit less frequently but with significantly more containers per ship, leading to lower quayside productivity”.
Megaships could also face difficulties due to rapidly changing consumer markets, with logistics moving to “smaller lot sizes” as a result of “highly optimized just-in-time supply chains”.
According to Karp, shippers “need to cost-effectively transport smaller lots or even individual components or products” in a timely and precise manner, representing a “complete contradiction” of recent investments in megaships.
Instead, smaller vessels that operate more frequently, and at faster speeds, could enable shippers to provide better service levels for customers, a system which Karp calls a “flexible, continuous stream of goods and materials”.
Byung Kwon Lee explains how ports can prepare for the challenge of mega ships in a recent Port Technology technical paper
Karp also cites the development of transparent supply chains and autonomous ships as conduits to more efficient logistics services, enabling product manufacturers to achieve short delivery times.
“When we find the right convergence of engineering and business model innovation to enable smaller, faster vessels to reach the equivalent – or cheaper – unit shipping cost, the world will inevitably change.”
It is now in the hands of the container shipping industry to respond to these new trends.