Container ships account for a large majority of the freight that is moved around the world because of how much cargo can be moved at once. Over the last twenty years, the biggest container ships have doubled in size, adding to both the logistics competition and growing the industry. Read our blog to learn more about just how big the world’s largest ocean container ships are and why ocean freight is so popular.
Why Are Container Ships So Popular?
Liner shipping is incredibly common in the transportation world for several reasons. For many businesses, it is the most efficient and cost-effecting mode of transport. Ships operate on common routes so arrival and departure times are consistent, making for easier planning for many businesses. Container ships are also incredibly convenient for several types of cargo that must be shipped in intermodal containers, which can be easily packed as is.
Categories of Container Ships
There are several ways to categorize container ships, including by size:
- Small feeders and feeders (300 – 1,000 TEUs)
- Feedermax (~3,000 TEUs)
- Panamax (~4,500 TEUs)
- Suezmax (~12,000 TEUs)
- Ultra large container ships (20,000 – 24,000 TEUs)
The average capacity of a container ship is right around 4,500 TEUs, with plenty of ships on either side of that number, but the majority of vessels in the ocean are still Panamax, around 4,500 TEUs.
How Big are the Largest Container Ships?
At present, Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine holds the title of the largest container ship ever built. The ship, called Ever Alot, can hold 24,004 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). It is about 1,300 feet long and 203 feet wide, about the length of an 18-hole golf course!
The Ever Alot is a type of ship known as “Very Large Container Ships” (VLCs) or “Ultra Large Container Vessels” (ULCVs). VLCs are able to travel through most of the same routes as their smaller counterparts but it is worth nothing that they just barely pass through the Panama Canal. The Ever Alot cost a whopping $150 million to make, a cost that will take them years to recoup but will make for a worthy investment. Many of these VLCs mostly operate routes between the Far East and Europe.
One major benefit of these ultra large ships and upping the scale of shipments is that it lowers the container slow costs, allowing for more competition in the market and potentially lower prices for businesses. This is incredibly appealing to those who frequently ship cargo via container vessels who may be able to cut costs and get more cargo moved for less funds.
The Future of Very Large Containers
Though competitors are continuing to make bigger and bigger vessels and there are plenty of signs that the industry is continuing to head in a “bigger is better” direction, there are also some signs of a slow down. The BBC recently reported on an assumed slow down, pointing to the economic and physics-limitations. These ships can only get so much bigger while still being able to move smoothly through the necessary ports. Only time will tell!