Recently the amount of goods transported by the global container fleet has almost doubled, reaching over 200 million TEU per year. The Far East/Europe and East/West trade, accounting for 25% of the global trade, covers the longest distances and affects container ship sizes. This happens because:

Concentrating of the cargo on larger vessels rather than on multiple smaller vessels comes with advantages

Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer at Maersk Line, said.

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However, improving port processes does not guarantee a smooth flow of containers, as the hinterland connections frequently lead to bottlenecks. In fact, according to Mr. Probst, traffic congestion around ports and on expressways, insufficient truck trip coordination, or customs clearance issues can lead a container waiting to be picked up to be delayed. For this reason, many ports now need to increase their container storage.

But now a question arises. Can more smaller vessels help ports achieve a more continuous flow of containers? Mr. Probst explains that unloading a 14,000 TEU ship is a much smoother process that reduces peak loads at the terminal and enhances outbound transport to the hinterland by feeder vessel, train or road truck.

Namely, smaller vessels would be more versatile and able to operate in more ports than huge vessels. These giant ships are only used in Asia-to-Europe trade and before sailing to Europe, they often call at many Asian ports to collect cargo, ensuring high operational efficiency. Specifically, using two 14,000 TEU boxships instead of one 20,000 TEU vessel could accelerate transport.

On the other hand, a well-loaded 20,000+-TEU vessel achieves the lowest fuel consumption per TEU, while using more smaller ships to deal with inadequate hinterland infrastructure would increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per nautical mile. Today, block-type storage yards with automated stacking cranes enable containers to be stacked closely. This doubles storage capacity without needing more space.

In reality, companies such as Maersk Line, 2M Alliance and the Ocean Alliance depend on mega container ships, while ONE, Hapag Lloyd and Yang Ming, are in favour of the 12,000 to 14,000 TEU ships. For the latter, Jan Holst, Country Head Germany at ONE, explained that this decision was made because their rading lines include many port calls within Asia where some ports do not have the necessary capacity.

However, despite the fact that some shipowners consider logistics from the ship’s perspective, other members of the chain are interested in quick, cargo transport. In the meantime, online agencies and freight forwarders are promoting digitalization and improved transparency. something that

Will put more pressure on liner companies to improve efficiency. This could become a key factor for the choice of ship sizes

Jan-Olaf Probst, Director Business Development DNV GL, concluded.