Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 21, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 9

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The World’s Largest Container Ship (Shipspotting)

PANAMA CITY, Panama

While we await the arrival here Tuesday, May 23, of the Duesseldorf Express cargo carrier, with my old Mercedes onboard en route from California to Italy, let’s have a trivia test.

So, what’s the biggest container ship in the world?

What a timely question!

The answer has changed three times in the last month!

Since 2015, it had been the behemoth Barzan, with a 19,870 TEU capacity, according to Alphaliner (credit them for the graphic below too). Then, in March, the MOL Triumph broke the 20k TEU barrier when its 20,170 TEU capacity was christened. In April, the 20,568 TEU Madrid Maersk went into service.

But as of last week, the new “King of Containerland” is the OOCL Hong Kong. It is owned by the Orient Overseas Container Line, Ltd., of Hong Kong, and it was just built by Samsung (that company seems to have its fingers in every pie, doesn’t it?).

The Hong Kong, at 21,413 TEUs, blew them all away. And OOCL supposedly has an order for six such ships. Other shipyards are building as many of these 400-meter behemoths, as fast they can.

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 2.44.18 PM

Next question: What are TEUs?

They are “twenty-foot equivalent units” or an inexact measurement unit for cargo capacity, often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals. Everyone in the industry uses it, so measurements are all relative.

But imagine 21,143 20-foot shipping containers loaded on one ship! It’s like 24 bays, stacked 38 rows deep, by 24 rows wide! Hope my Mercedes is not on the bottom of a pile like that!

Most shipping containers are not 20-footers, however; they’re actually all sizes (like life-size stackable Legos), the most common of which – check me on this, maritime buffs – is the 40-footer. (Want one? You can easily buy one; eBay has them for less than $2,000.) So, I think it’s safe to calculate the OOCL Hong Kong could easily fit, say, 10,000 of these ubiquitous 40-foot containers!

In fact my old Mercedes 450 SL, which at 15.5 feet in length could actually fit inside a 20-footer, has an HC-40 all to itself on the Duesseldorf Express. HC refers to “High Cube” which means it’s 9 feet, 6 inches tall – about a foot taller than a standard cube. (Exact HC-40 measurement, according to the Hapag-Lloyd shipping line which owns the DE, is about six inches shorter than 40 feet, and about 7 feet, 8 inches inches wide. The Mercedes fits inside with about a foot to spare on either side.

How big is the Duesseldorf Express, compared to the OOCL Hong Kong? A fraction of the size. At 930 feet, it is about 400 feet shorter. The DE also has a capacity of “only” 4,612 TEUs – which still seems like kind of a lot. (Still hard to imagine my containerized Mercedes as just one of 2,000+ containers on that ship!)

But here’s the deal: The Duesseldorf Express will fit through the Panama Canal.

The OOCL Hong Kong and its ilk, despite the recent Panamax canal expansion, will not.

Jerry Garrett

May 21, 2017

According to the Hellenic Shipping News, “The 21,413 teu OOCL HONG KONG, delivered last week by Samsung Heavy Industries, has taken the crown for the largest containership ever built, based on advertised nominal container intake.

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