26 Oktober 2014

[261014.EN.SEA] 24,000-TEU Boxships Would Weigh Heavily on Infrastructure Costs

INFRASTRUCTURE costs and related constraints could outweigh the benefits of ever larger containerships even though it is feasible to build ships of 24,000-TEU, according to classification society DNV GL.

Against the near universal cry for lower slot costs, such as voiced by port planner Larry Nye of Moffatt & Nichol engineering of Long Beach, warnings are increasingly heard.

But Mr Nye insists megaships are coming to the US west coast and tells terminal operators in Los Angeles and Long Beach to brace themselves for 18,000-TEUers, reports Newark's Journal of Commerce.

To handle these, he said, terminals must invest in varying degrees of automation.

But automation is expensive, costing US$300 to $500 million to fully automate a facility that will handle two million TEU a year, say others.

"You have to really study it closely and guess right from the start," warned Dan Smith, a partner in the Tioga Group, Philadelphia consultants.

Also sounding a cautionary note is DNV GL class society's Jost Bergmann, as shipping lines seek lower slot costs, the largest vessels on order going up to 19,000 TEU.

"We believe it's worth looking at the total picture of where ship sizes will go in the future. We should also have a look at the infrastructure costs, which are developing in the opposite way to slot costs," Mr Bergman, DNV GL's containership business managers, told a recent seminar in Singapore.

"If liner companies insist on getting 24,000-TEU ships it is possible from a naval architecture point of view," he said, reported Seatrade Global.

Moving up to the possible 24,000-TEU capacity vessel would need larger cranes, reinforced berths, bigger turning basins, deeper water and investment in landside infrastructure such as road and rail connections.

Port congestion being seen this year in Europe and now Asia is a possible sign of infrastructure problems already starting to appear.

A 24,000-TEU ship would be 430 metres long compared to 400 metres for a 19,000-TEU ship and have a beam of 64 metres compared to 59.

"If the vessels are longer, then in the upper parts of the ship steel plates of 100-110 millimetres may have to be used to ensure it is strong enough, which poses challenges not just for the shipyards but also the steel mills," said Mr Bergmann.

The size of container tiers in the cargo hold would also be increased from 11 to 12, which would result in weight restrictions on the cargo carried given that only 11 containers can be stacked on top of each other without crushing the boxes at the bottom.

According to Mr Bergmann, the average size of boxships has been increasing dramatically by 5.5 per cent annually. Of the current orderbook 40 per cent of the vessels are in excess of 13,000 TEU capacity.

So far this year 140 newbuildings have been ordered with 1.1 million TEU of capacity.

"We believe we see some moderate newbuilding activity in the next few years maybe around 200 vessels a year, and we also believe there will be a focus on the larger, more energy efficient vessels."

Source : HKSG.

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