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2015 will be a battle for the biggest container ships

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Photo: UASC

Maersk Line launched the battle for new mega-ships back in 2011, but the coming months will bring numerous contenders for the title of operating the biggest container ship in the world.

Published 30.12.14 at 12:31

2015 will become a de facto race among the oceangoing container carriers toward using the biggest ships ever handled by the industry, says Alphaliner in an analysis of the new ships set for delivery in the coming year.

Since June 2013, when Maersk Line's first Triple-E ship, the Maersk McKinney-Møller, was delivered from the yard, numerous contenders have emerged in the fight to claim the title as "the world's biggest" in terms of container capacity.

Maersk Line has so far taken delivery of 13 of the total 20 ships in the Triple-E series. The ships have a total capacity of 18,340 teu. This record was officially beaten by China Shipping Container Lines in November with the ship CSCL Globe, which holds 18,982 containers.

However, the Chinese will not keep the title for long, as Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Maersk Line's partner in the new 2M Alliance, will take delivery of MSC Oscar in January, with a capacity of 19,100 teu.

But this record will also only last a few months, as MSC will likely be forced to surrender the title when United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) receives the ship Barzan in April.

 According to Alphaliner, the ship is officially registered at 18,800 teu, but sources indicate that this number could grow ahead of delivery next year.

In addition to these four series of ULCSs, Ultra Large Container Ships, contracts have been signed for six ships of up to 19,200 teu at South Korean shipyard Samsung Heavy Industries (SSH), though details concerning these new "super jumbos" remain unknown.

All these ultra large vessels have virtually the same dimensions, with breadths of around 60 meters and 395-400 meters in length, while the ships' interiors in terms of containers and deck house vary.

While the carriers achieve economies of scale through reduced unit costs, and not least significant savings on fuel consumption, the deployment of these new mega-ships on the major trades between the Far East and Europe is expected to cause problems elsewhere when the already-large vessels on these trades are pushed to other routes, so-called cascading.

A total of 69 new mega-ships will be delivered to the container fleet in the period from late 2014 and throughout 2015. Virtually all of these ships are expected to deployed on trades between Asia and Europe, though growth in combined capacity could increase by up to 15 percent toward the end of next year, according to analysts SeaIntel.

The 69 new buildings correspond to a total capacity of more than one million teu, and most if not all of these ships will be deployed on the key Asia-Europe trades.

Even bigger ships could be underway in the coming years with capacities reaching 22,000 - 24,0000 containers.

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