Want to see what a world record looks like? Check out this Maersk Line video of the Mary Maersk leaving Algeciras, Spain with 17,603 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU)!
We’ve been talking about the megaship craze in international shipping for quite some time. It’s one thing to talk about megaships, but it’s another thing entirely to see one of these behemoths loaded up and leaving port.
Perhaps the legendary leviathan, an unimaginably large sea creature of lore, is a better metaphorical monster description than behemoth of the huge Triple E megaships Maersk is unleashing on the world of international shipping.
Even with pictures and videos, it’s hard to grasp the actual enormity of these megaships. Take a football stadium, add a basketball court, now throw in a hockey arena, and it could all fit comfortably below deck on a Triple E ship, Maersk has said to describe their leviathans.
Kenneth Mollerup Birch, Chief Editor of Maersk Line Communications wrote a great article on the Mary Maersk‘s record-breaking voyage that stated the nominal capacity of this megaship is actually 18,270 TEU, so it probably won’t be too long before Maersk breaks this new record they just set.
There was a time when a 667 TEU ship (the difference between the nominal capacity of the Mary Maersk and the TEU it’s actually carrying) would have been considered a pretty big ship.
Ports are having to adjust to be able to handle ships of this magnitude. Most of the world’s ports could not handle one of Maersk’s Triple E ships like the Mary Maersk. Dredging harbors and getting larger cranes is just the start of a port preparing for the task of loading and unloading these monstrous megaships.
It took more than a year for Algeciras to prepare for the full utilization of a Triple E ship, according to Birch’s Maersk article. It quotes Carlos Arias, head of the South Europe Liner Operations Cluster, in regard to the preparation:
“This included the upgrading of four existing cranes and the arrival of four new Triple-E cranes.” [Arias] adds that the port of Tanjung Pelepas [the Malaysian destination port of the Mary Maersk’s record breaking voyage] has had to make similar upgrades, and this was the first occasion where both ends were ready.
Being able to move such high volumes of containers at once has great savings potential for Maersk. Will that potential result in reality? Will such savings, if reached, trickle down to shippers? Will Maersk even be able to fill ships with this kind of capacity?
Birch’s Maersk Article did say that more than half the containers on the ship were empty.
Overcapacity has put downward pressure on freight rates in the past and has been very costly for carriers like Maersk. If the demand isn’t present to fill these megaships, it’s possible ships like the Mary Maersk could create more downward pressure on freight rates.
But then again, maybe Maersk doesn’t really need to fill these Triple E ships with shippers’ goods. Maersk said all those empty containers were being repositioned for re-use in Asia. Repositioning shipping containers must be a need for carriers. And that doesn’t mean there weren’t a great many shipping containers filled with various kinds of goods being shipped.
“We have Danish cheese, frozen pork meat from Denmark, frozen beef meat from Germany, frozen berries, chocolate and candy foodstuff, frozen fish, lobster and frozen shellfish, flower bulbs from the Netherlands, pharmaceutical products, fruits and much more,” Captain Thorvald Hansen of the Mary Maersk was quoted as saying in the Maersk article.
The captain also spoke of the excitement and smooth sailing of the record-breaking voyage.
Now it’s time to see how smooth the transition of utilizing megaships in international shipping will be. The era of the megaship that we’ve been talking about for so long appears to have finally arrived.
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