How Terminals can Tackle Mega-Ships



Peter Ford, Chief Strategy Officer, Ports America


The evolution of the containership over the past two decades has allowed shipping lines to pursue economies of scale that reduce the cost per slot (at equivalent utilisation levels) to all time lows. The capacity of the largest container ships, per decade, over the last 20 years has increased by over 135%, this is manifested in the current 19,224 TEU world’s biggest ship, which was only 8,160 TEU in 2006. However, the length of these vessels has only increased by 14% from 347m to 400m in the same period.

As seen in Figure 1, from only 2006 to today we have witnessed an increase in width from 17 rows wide to 23 and an overall stacking height increase from 15 to 18. This continued growth in capacity that is derived more from width and stacking height on board comes with some implications for the port operators where these vessels are calling. With the entry of the +18,000 TEU vessels on many trade lanes, we have witnessed a general upsizing of the other trade lanes as the existing vessels cascade downward where possible. The overall result of this for port operators is that there is significant increased pressure for performance, both for their customers and for their shareholders.


Deeper holds, higher stacking, and wider hatches have noticeable negative impacts on crane productivity. Sometimes, however, good stowage planning from liner operations departments can offset this negative impact by reducing the wasted movement of cranes as they service a vessel. What this means is that at the same time that lines are…

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