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Container ship sizes

Why container ships probably won't get bigger: BBC

When the Ever Ace, one of the largest container ships in the world, eased out of Yantian port on 14 August last year and manoeuvred gingerly into the South China Sea, she had embarked upon a record-breaking voyage.

To date, no other ship has carried such a large volume of shipping containers – the equivalent of 21,710 20ft (6m) containers.

The 399.9m-long (1,320ft) and 61.5m-wide (203ft) vessel is a true behemoth, but there are dozens of container ships of a similar size sailing today. Many more are currently under construction. Just two of them stacked vertically would be nearly as tall as the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

If you cast your eyes over a list of the largest container ships in the world, you'll soon notice that they are all 400m (1,320ft) in length or just less than that, and about 60m (200ft) wide. It is more or less today's upper limit for these vessels. There is a surprising number of reasons as to why – and also why you're unlikely to see any container ships much larger than this, perhaps ever. But what are they?

There are around 5,500 container ships globally and together they are capable of carrying 25 million TEUs, or the equivalent of around 25 million 20ft (6m) containers. That's if they were all fully loaded at the same moment.

As George Griffiths, editor of global container markets at S&P Global Platts explains, the global order book for new container ships will increase that total collective capacity by a gigantic 25% in just a few years.

"We're seeing a lot more of the ultra-large container ships being built," he says. "The proportion of new ships that are moving over 14,000 containers is staggering."

In the last decade alone, the average capacity of a container ship has grown from less than 3,000 TEUs to around 4,500 TEUs. And there are currently more than 50 ships with a capacity of 21,000 TEUs or more. Practically all of them were built in the last five years.
However, these vessels stretch the limits of even the world's largest ports, says Griffiths. To load and unload containers, cranes must reach across the vessels. Container also ships have to turn, pass through locks and canals – including the Suez and Panama canals, which have size restrictions.

It's crucial that vessels avoid running aground, too. In some ports, the largest ships actually sit so deep in the water that they touch the bottom and glide through the silt rather than float above it, says Stavros Karamperidis, head of the Maritime Transport Research Group at the University of Plymouth. Such a manoeuvre must be handled with extreme care.

To read more about it in BBC : click here