More than 18,000-TEU ships are reported to soon be ordered as carriers are in the process of lowering their operating costs and now the attention is directed towards the appearance of the next largest class of ships. The classification society DNV GL commented that 24,000 TEU ships were possible but would come across many navigational difficulties.
Jost Bergman, business director, said that it was easier to increase the width of the ship instead of the length because of steel thickness requirements. Such large vessels would be limited by port and seaways restrictions as for example by crane outreach and drafts. Additional height constraints could be due to bridges in ports such as Hong Kong, Hamburg or Osaka. Bergman said in a statement that they were reaching the limits in ship size development.
Several carriers have committed to 18,000 TEU ships and these are Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC), United Arab Shipping Co. (UASC) and China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL). Last week the latter received the transfer of the CSCL Globe, now the largest ship afloat. There was a bidding process among shipyards to build six vessels of 18,000-20,000 TEU capacity. Alphaliner said that the largest ordered ships were for a size of 17,800. According to Maersk Line, efficiency was better with bigger ships that saved fuel and reduced operating costs to compensate for revenue declines originating in the fall of freight rates. During the last week JOC Port Performers conference in London, Thomas Lutje-managing director of HHLA Container Terminals, said that priorities for carriers were related to compartments for storage.
CSCL Globe: Image HHI
The suitability of ships above the maximum size is of great interest because of the more time needed to navigate the ships at port and consequently the delays that result out of this. Larger ships are commonly experiencing greater delays on terminals as many containers are to be equipped in a given port signal. The JOC London conference discussed that as carriers relied on mega-ships in order to reduce costs, terminals and ports increased their pressure. A senior terminal executive said that carriers saved costs but the load had to be carried by everybody.
Yet it is believed that 24,000 TEU ships will be ordered in the future. JOC.com was told by Andrew Penfold, project director for Ocean Shipping Consultants (OSC), that during the next years such ships would be sanctioned. That was certain to happen as the additional cost compared to 19,000 TEU ships was not that big as a value. According to him, OSC studies showed that 24,000 TEU ship’s length would be 430-450 meters compared to 18,000 TEU ships’ 400 meters. The width would increse from 59 to 61.5 meters. Thus the conclusion was that ships of the next generation might be longer but not wider.