Ultra-large boom

Ultra large container ships are testing the mettle of global terminals. Credit: Kees Torn Ultra large container ships are testing the mettle of global terminals. Credit: Kees Torn
Industry Database

COMMENT: The proliferation of ultra-large container ships has been the bane of many a port operator’s working life of late, writes Mike Mundy.

But the scale of the craze might still surprise: as of January 1, 2018, there were 451 ultra-large container ships (ULCS) – defined as vessels with a capacity of 10,000 teu and above – in operation. And, according to the specialist maritime report publisher Dynaliners, another 129 were on order.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) tops the list with a total of 110 ULCS – 90 in service and 20 on order, including 11 vessels with a capacity of 23,350 teu, which are the highest capacity vessels ordered to-date.

In second position sits Maersk Line with a total of 97 ULCS – 13 of these vessels joined its fleet as part of the Hamburg Sud acquisition and out of the 11 vessels on order six have capacities of 20,600 teu.

COSCO is third with 96 vessels – 29 of which are on order with 27 of these accruing from its merger with China Shipping.

CMA CGM has 93 ULCS – 74 in service and 19 on order. Out of those on order nine have capacities of 22,850 teu and are destined to become the first ever liquefied natural gas powered ULCS.

Fifth position, held by Hapag Lloyd, marks a drop to 45 vessels. All of these vessels are in service with 22 vessels originating from Hapag Lloyd’s takeover of UASC.

Dynaliners defines five categories of ULCS: 22,000+ teu, 24 boxes wide on deck; 18,000+ teu, 23 boxes wide on deck; new post-panamax, 20-21 boxes wide on deck; new panamax, 19 boxes wide on deck; and sub-new panamax, 17-18 boxes wide on deck.

The two new panamax vessel categories are more flexible vessels which, Dynaliners notes, have the ability to trade worldwide.

Vessels larger than 18,000 teu are, of course, destined for the Asia-Europe trades and notably the Asia-North Europe services.

The ULCS concept, first introduced by Maersk with the 15,500 teu Emma Maersk in mid-2006, is progressively making its mark, dictating the requirement for ongoing port investment in new infrastructure and equipment.

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