since containers were an initial created in the 1950s, ships have grown greatly in size. Container pearls are critical part of the an international logistics chain and, therefore, ship size and efficiency must increase to improve economic climates of scale.


Javier Garrido is a researcher in ~ the facility of Innovation and also Transport (CENIT) and also PhD student at harbor de Barcelona.

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Container pearls are an essential part of the an international logistics chain and, therefore, ship size and efficiency must rise to improve economic situations of scale.

Over the previous two decades, the capacity of container ships has actually tripled and shipyards now have actually vessels that have the right to hold 23,000 TEUs. In spite of exponential development in this sector, some question whether it might top out, as taken place with bulk cargo vessels or, recently, through the Airbus 380. Therefore, when the civilization is waiting for the following generation the mega container ships, we’ll shot to answer the following question: room we walk to see a post Suezmax vessel in the comes decades?

First of all, it is essential to recognize why there have actually been six waves of comprehensive changes come container ships, each one stood for by a brand-new generation that vessels.

The very first generation was basically modified mass vessels v capacity for as much as 1,000 TEUs. Things evolved rapidly indigenous there, however. Ships ongoing to upsize capacity and dimensions until they could no much longer fit through the Panama Canal, in 1985, through a capacity about 4,000 TEUs. This vessels, therefore, are recognized as the Panamax generation.

In 1988, the very first ships to be made with a broad of much more than 32.3 metres, launching the Post-Panamax generation the container ships. This resulted in infrastructure troubles at most ports worldwide, as they had to invest in more comprehensive gantry cranes and dredge the ground come accommodate this vessels.


In the early on 2000s, demand and volume ongoing to grow. Indigenous 2001 come 2006, expansion in profession volume was 3 times higher than GDP growth, top top average. Therefore, the height shipping lines, which began to form strategic alliances, saw the require for a new generation that container vessels. In 2006, with the development of Emma Mærsk, the an initial very huge container delivery (VLCS) entered service. Bigger container ships lessened the expense per TEU also further, which raised demand and therefore incentivised also larger ships.

This feedback loop concerned an end when the financial crisis hit in 2008 and demand began to flag. However, the market power of partnerships and the climb of emerging markets favor China continued to push container-ship upsizing further, also though demand was not capturing up. So, about 10 years later, ultra huge container ships (ULCS) through capacities over 20,000 TEUs were introduced.

Nowadays, the biggest container ship in regards to capacity is the MSC Gülsün, with 23.756 TEUs, 400 metres in length, 61,5 metres in width and also 16,5-metre draught. Also though capacity rose notably, the size of the newest container pearls hasn’t readjusted that much in recent years.

Influencing components that can lead to adjust in container-ship size

To recognize which factors can cause the breakthrough of a brand-new generation the mega vessels we need to look in ~ the affecting factors and also interdependencies, which can be separated into six categories:

TechnologySustainabilityMarketCost infrastructurePort infrastructureSailing routes

The figure below shows various factors for each category and our guess regarding whether they will certainly lead to boost or diminish in ship size.


Are we going to watch a post Suezmax courage in the comes decades?

To predict further development, we have analysed the dimensions of past container ships, based upon Lloyds Database. The following charts illustrate the length, beam, depth and draught in relationship to capacity in TEUs. The container ships from the 2019 orderbook have been included in the figures.





Analysing the relationships in between the dimensions of container ships and their volume in TEUs, we deserve to conclude the complying with trends:

Draught does no significantly readjust after hitting the 12,000-TEU mark. In fact, it seems to stabilise about 16-16.5 metres.Depth appears to stabilise about 30 metres for vessels bigger 보다 12,000 TEUs, yet for the recent ULCV through a capacity higher than 20,000 TEUs, it has actually increased to 35 metres, approximately.Length stabilises around 400 metres for vessels over 15,000 TEUs.Beam is the measurement showing the largest growth, proportionally.Beam, length and depth are clearly growing through intervals, based upon the new rows of TEUs included in each direction.Increase in volume for VLCS and also ULCS is plainly related to the transforms in length, depth and also beam, yet significantly the last one. Regarding draught, it is the least influenced dimension in the brand-new mega vessels.

Analysing all the graphics together, we deserve to see the the size are raising with greater capacity. However, the gradient is decreasing for all, which means higher capacities are accomplished without a comprehensive increase in vessel size. Follow to the latest vessel developments, the beam seems to be the dimension ideal able to accommodate extra TEU capacity contrasted to the other dimensions.

Once we have analysed the data for the past, we can extrapolate the outcomes to the future. So, according to the figures, we deserve to estimate that, if there is no significant change in the evolution of courage size, a container ship with capacity of 30,000 TEUs would not exceed 17 metres in draught and the length would hardly with the 425 metres. V regard come the beam, the trends display a possible increase in the dimension, so probably they might reach 65 metres throughout the beam. even though vessel dimension is growing, that is clear that the dimensions wouldn’t readjust that lot in relation to capacity.

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Summing up, the development of container ships is not finished. Based on data from the past, we deserve to predict the size of a potential container ship with capacity that 30,000 TEUs. However, any technological disruption could adjust this advancement substantially. We put these estimations in more context by analysing different influencing factors and dependencies. Any brand-new generation that container pearl would confront a declining number of ports able to handle them. So, will ports have the ability to upgrade your infrastructures?

Another necessary factor to consider is that the borders in container-ship size seem much more minimal by business strategy and also canal dimensions than by technical constraints.

Environmental factors can be a far-reaching driving pressure in the current climate crisis caused by worldwide warming. Will certainly ships it is in bigger and also with an ext efficient engines to alleviate the number of externalities every TEU? will certainly the pressure of ports and also cities charging vessels based upon emissions favour smaller sized container ships?