Berth productivity will have to keep up with shipping’s super-sized revolution



Maersk Line, Copenhagen, Denmark


Maersk Line’s new 18,000-TEU Triple-E vessels will not only revolutionize shipping, but also port infrastructure

Think of a container ship as long as the Empire State building and as wide as an eight-lane motorway that is able to carry more than 860 million bananas or 18 million flat-screen televisions in 18,000 containers. That will be the world’s largest vessel – the ‘Triple-E’ – the sheer scale and capacity of which will revolutionize international container shipping.

Maersk Line, the world’s largest container line, signed a contract in February to buy 10 Triple-E vessels, with an option for 20 more, from Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea in a deal that could be worth US$5.7 billion. The ships will be delivered from 2013 to 2015 and will have 16% more capacity than Emma Maersk, the world’s largest vessel currently in operation. Moreover, 50% less carbon dioxide (CO2) will be emitted per container moved compared to the industry average on the Asia-Europe trade.

The purpose behind the creation of Triple-E vessels

The vessel’s purpose is encapsulated in the name: Triple-E – Economy of scale, Energy efficient and Environmentally improved. Its enormous capacity enables Maersk Line to move the greatest number of containers possible for its customers in the most energy efficient way, with the smallest CO2 footprint. Combined with an energy saving propulsion system, its size is a major factor in its industry best efficiency and performance. Maersk Line considers the timing opportune to order these new vessels as the annual market growth for Asia to Europe (westbound) trade is expected to be in the 5-8% range during 2011-2015. The Triple-E vessels, which will ply this trade lane from 2013, are symbols of Maersk Line’s growth ambitions and its visible industry leadership in terms of environmental responsibility.

The Triple-E’s economy of scale

The Triple-E will be the longest and widest container vessel. The reality is that the visible dimensions of the ship – only four meters longer and three meters wider than Emma Mærsk – do not fully convey its capacity.

The Triple-E’s enormity is actually in its bulk. Through feats of engineering, the Triple-E’s vastly expanded inside cavity gives it 16% greater capacity than Emma (equivalent to 2,500 containers), despite relatively little change in the length and width. The Triple-E is designed to transport more cargo without adding engine power compared to Emma Maersk. Unlike Emma Mærsk’s more typical V-shaped hull which limits container capacity towards the bottom of the ‘V’ in the cargo holds, the hull of the Triple-E is more like a U-shape. An additional row of containers was also added to the Triple-E, giving it 23 rows across its width compared to Emma’s 22. The more spacious hull and extra row provides additional capacity for 1,500 containers.

Additional container space has been created in the vessel by moving the navigation bridge and accommodation superstructure five bays forward, and the engine room and chimney six bays back in what is called a ‘two-island’ design. With the more forward navigation bridge, containers can be stacked higher in front of the bridge (approximately 250 more) without losing visibility; and approximately 750 more containers fill the space behind the bridge above deck and below deck using the space created by the engine room’s position further to the back of the vessel.

Energy efficient and environmentally improved design

Its size is remarkable, and yet the most impressive and important attributes of the Triple-E cannot actually be seen. The Triple-E class of container vessels will emit 50% less CO2 per container moved than the industry average for vessels operating on the Asia–Europe trade. Its design is optimized to sail with the maximum possible cargo load while at the same time reducing the impact on the environment. “Reducing our CO2 footprint is a top priority for us and also our customers who depend on us in their supply chain, and a growing number of consumers who inform their decisions with this information,” says Søren Stig Nielsen, Head of Sustainability for Maersk Line.

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