Marisol International Transportation & Logistics Blog

Container Shipping: How are Mega-Vessels Changing the Industry?

Posted by Chelsea Mitchell on Apr 6, 2015 3:42:00 PM

Growth in international trade has prompted ocean carriers to build mega-ships, expanding vessel capacities to 20,000 TEUs or more. In comparison, the first container ship transported only 58 intermodal containers from the Port of Newark to the Port of Houston in 1956. How is the increase in vessel size forcing the industry to evolve? 

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The introduction of mega-ships has caused canal and port authorities to consider infrastructure expansion projects as well as automation upgrades. Nearly a year prior to the scheduled completion of a $5 billion expansion project, the Panama Canal Authority is discussing the idea of installing even larger locks to compete with the Suez Canal. Panama's current canal expansion project will allow the canal to handle 14,000 TEU container ships, excluding the passage of ultra large mega-ships. Due to growth in vessel sizes, the Panama Canal Authority is contemplating another expansion project which would enable the canal to handle 20,000 TEU capacity vessels. If the authority chooses to proceed with the second expansion project, it is estimated to cost $16 to $17 billion, and could be completed within 15 years. 

The Port of Rotterdam has already incorporated port automation technology in order to keep pace with the growing size of modern container ships. At Europe's busiest port, robots operate cranes to unload container ships, increasing the average number of container moves per hour. Furthermore, many port authorities around the world have been forced to increase dredging to provide mega vessels with deep water berthing spaces at seaport terminals. 

The formation of ocean carrier alliances has also accelerated the growth in mega-ship construction. Major ocean carriers have formed into four main alliances - G6, CKYHE, Ocean 3 and 2M - in order to consolidate trade cargo, capture economies of scale in fuel and lower crew costs. 

The introduction of mega-ships has benefited the environment as the larger vessels consume half the fuel per container move compared to the older, smaller container ships. The new ultra large container vessels will substantially cut carbon dioxide emissions per container move, improving air qualities and decreasing the carbon footprint caused by the shipping industry. 

Over the last year, U.S. port congestion has been attributed to a number of problems, one of which includes the increasing size of container ships. Many U.S. seaports have struggled to accommodate the larger vessels as the number of containers to be unloaded per vessel has increased drastically. This bottleneck has resulted in longer port calls and altered ETAs. 

There are benefits and disadvantages to the premiere of ultra large mega-vessels within the container shipping industry. Allow a Marisol International Licensed Customs Broker or Freight Forwarder help you plan shipments to decrease supply chain disruptions. Contact us today for more information. 

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Topics: Ocean Freight

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