AN analysis of the order book by IHS Maritime & Trade shows that the largest container vessels on order have more than sextupled since 1975 and are set to expand by at least 13 per cent by the end of the decade.
The analysis explained that the rapid rise in ship sizes reflects the growth of globalisation in the last four decades, rise of containerisation at the expense of breakbulk and bulk shipping, and carriers" need for greater economies of scale to compete with each other and gain fuel efficiencies.
The trend of shipping lines ordering larger vessels shows no sign of abating, and the competition among ocean liners to amass fleets of ever more mega-ships is so fierce it has been likened to an "arms race".
Just in this first half, CMA CGM placed an order for six vessels with capacities of 14,000 TEU, after an earlier order of three 20,000 TEU ships, while Maersk placed an order for 11 ships with capacities exceeding 19,500 TEU and G6 Alliance members MOL and OOCL have each placed orders for 20,000-TEUers.
It is yet to be seen if carriers will benefit from the increased economies of scale, and the mega-ships have been accused of causing delays at ports and problems for terminal operators and shippers.
Ports have had to increase the depths of their channels, a multi-year, multi-million dollar expense. And with mega-ships typically calling at fewer ports than their smaller predecessors, this leads to surges of unloadings.
To cope with congestion, terminal operators must make a Sophie's choice between costly automation, estimated at between US$200 and $500 million, or expensive changes to operations, such as extra night and weekend shifts. Additionally, many operators must invest in larger cranes capable of reaching across these monolithic ships.
Shippers suffer because of an increased likelihood their products will be delayed due to port congestion and ultimately, someone must pay for the expensive upgrades to infrastructure that these ships necessitate.
Source : SN-TR, Cairo Post.