Ultra Large Container Ships (ULCS) have become an increasingly familiar – and spectacular – sight around the UK’s coast as vessels continue to grow in size. When one of these mega-ships, the MSC Maya, made her maiden call at Southampton recently she became largest containership to visit the port so far at 19,224 TEU and 395.4 metres in length.
Mega-ships now represent well over half of the business at the new US$158 million SCT 5 berth operated by DP World at Associated British Port’s (ABP) Port of Southampton. Southampton is not alone as ports worldwide see the impact of the rapid acceleration in the number and size of mega-ships but it provides a good example of how best to handle the challenges and opportunities these super vessels bring.
Economies of scale in such areas as fuel and crew may allow shipping lines to transport more cargo at less cost on mega-ships but that is only half of the equation. A new breed of ‘mega-ports’ not only need to be able to attract and accommodate megaships, they also have to be able to deliver a swift and seamless service when these vessels arrive.
The SCT 5 berth at Southampton, which opened in March 2014, is 500 metres long with a depth of 16 metres, and the potential for 17 metre draughts. It was purpose-built to handle the world’s largest ships, predominately from Asia and the Far East, such as the MSC Oscar class, among which includes the MSC Maya mentioned above, and Maersk’s Triple E-class vessels. The terminal now welcomes at least…