THE mega problem with mega ships is that there are no purpose-built mega ports to handle cargo in a manner befitting of tomorrow's state-of-the-art 20,000-TEU containership, says Drewry Maritime Research.
Drewry analysts point out a crucial technological shortcoming for even the biggest ports - that ships may be getting fatter, but not much longer. An 18,000-TEU box ship is only 25 per cent longer than a 7,400-TEU vessel yet has 150 per cent more capacity.
For example, the 19,200-TEU MSC Oscar is less than twice the length of a first generation 1,400-TEU ship, but its capacity is 14 times greater, reports Newark's Journal of Commerce.
That means that the number of cranes alongside cannot grow proportionally with the increasing ship sizes, and the broader and deeper the cranes must reach to draw boxes cuts into their moves per hour.
Putting it another way, a 19,000-TEU vessel is 50 per cent bigger than a 13,000-TEU ship, but the berth moves per day are only 20 per cent higher.
"Bigger ships are spending proportionately more of a round voyage in port than their predecessors. Overall berth productivity does increase with ship size," said Drewry.
"Cost and availability of labour restricts the number of additional cranes that can be deployed on each ship," Drewry noted in its latest weekly Container Insight.
To meet the industry target of 6,000 moves in 24 hours demanded in 2011 by Maersk Line's then-CEO Eivind Kolding, a 19,000-TEU ship would require eight cranes, each working at 35 moves per hour, instead of 25, generating a berth productivity of 280 moves per hour.
Drewry said an industry consensus held that 3,000 to 3,500 moves in 24 hours is a realistic top-end performance for a large terminal handling large vessels.
Yet once Maersk sought 6,000 moves a day on a 19,000-TEU ship that would require eight cranes, each working at 35 moves per hour, instead of 25. Maersk Line CEO Soren Skou saw the limit of 40 moves per hour.
According to the JOC, the UAE's Khor Fakkan has the world's highest berth productivity, achieving 179 berth moves per hour on average in 2013, that's 4,300 moves in 24 hours.
Source : HKSG.