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A container ship (also called boxship or spelled containership) is a
cargo ship A cargo ship or freighter is a merchant ship that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, handling the bulk of international trade. Cargo ships are usu ...
that carries all of its load in truck-size
intermodal container An intermodal container, often called a shipping container, is a large standardized shipping container, designed and built for intermodal freight transport, meaning these containers can be used across different Mode of transport, modes of trans ...
s, in a technique called
containerization Containerization is a system of intermodal freight transport using intermodal containers (also called shipping containers and International Organization for Standardization, ISO containers). Containerization is also referred as "Container St ...
. Container ships are a common means of commercial
intermodal freight transport Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of cargo, freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (e.g., rail transport, rail, ship, aircraft, and truck), without any handling of the freigh ...
and now carry most seagoing non-bulk cargo. Container ship capacity is measured in
twenty-foot equivalent unit The twenty-foot equivalent unit (abbreviated TEU or teu) is an inexact unit of cargo capacity, often used for container ships and container ports.Rowlett, 2004. It is based on the volume of a intermodal container, a standard-sized metal box whic ...
s (TEU). Typical loads are a mix of 20-foot (1-TEU) and 40-foot (2-TEU) ISO-standard containers, with the latter predominant. Today, about 90% of non-
bulk cargo Bulk cargo is commodity cargo that is transported packaging, unpackaged in large quantities. Description Bulk cargo refers to material in either liquid or granular, particulate form, as a mass of relatively small solids, such as petroleum/ ...
worldwide is transported by container ships, and the largest modern container ships can carry up to 24,000 TEU (e.g., '' Ever Ace''). Container ships now rival crude oil tankers and
bulk carrier A bulk carrier or bulker is a merchant ship specially naval architecture, designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo — such as Grain trade, grains, coal, ore, steel coils, and cement — in its cargo holds. Since the first specialized bulk c ...
s as the largest commercial seaborne vessels.


History

There are two main types of dry cargo:
bulk cargo Bulk cargo is commodity cargo that is transported packaging, unpackaged in large quantities. Description Bulk cargo refers to material in either liquid or granular, particulate form, as a mass of relatively small solids, such as petroleum/ ...
and
break bulk cargo In shipping, break-bulk, breakbulk, or break bulk cargo, also called general cargo, refers to goods that are stowed on board ship in individually counted units. Traditionally, the large numbers of items are recorded on distinct bill of lading, b ...
. Bulk cargoes, like grain or coal, are transported unpackaged in the hull of the ship, generally in large volume. Break-bulk cargoes, on the other hand, are transported in packages, and are generally manufactured goods. Before the advent of containerization in the 1950s, break-bulk items were loaded, lashed, unlashed and unloaded from the ship one piece at a time. However, by grouping cargo into containers, of cargo, or up to about , is moved at once and each container is secured to the ship once in a standardized way. Containerization has increased the efficiency of moving traditional break-bulk cargoes significantly, reducing shipping time by 84% and costs by 35%. In 2001, more than 90% of world trade in non-bulk goods was transported in ISO containers. In 2009, almost one quarter of the world's dry cargo was shipped by container, an estimated 125 million TEU or 1.19 billion tonnes worth of cargo.UNCTAD, 2010, p. 84. The first ships designed to carry standardized load units were used in the late 18th century in England. In 1766
James Brindley James Brindley (1716 – 27 September 1772) was an English engineer. He was born in Tunstead, Derbyshire, and lived much of his life in Leek, Staffordshire, becoming one of the most notable engineers of the 18th century. Early life Born i ...
designed the box boat "Starvationer" with 10 wooden containers, to transport coal from
Worsley Worsley () is a village in the City of Salford, Greater Manchester, England, which in 2014 had a population of 10,090. It lies along Worsley Brook, west of Manchester. Within the boundaries of the Historic counties of England, historic county ...
Delph to Manchester via the
Bridgewater Canal The Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh, Greater Manchester, Leigh, in North West England. It was commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. It was ...
. Before the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, the first container ships were used to carry the baggage of the luxury passenger train from London to Paris ( Southern Railway's Golden Arrow / La Flèche d'Or). These containers were loaded in London or Paris, and carried to ports of Dover or Calais on flat cars. In February 1931, the first container ship in the world was launched; the ''Autocarrier'', owned by Southern Railway UK. It had 21 slots for containers of Southern Railway. , url= http://www.faktaomfartyg.se/autocarrier_1931_b_1.htm, The earliest container ships after the Second World War were converted oil tankers, built up from surplus
T2 tanker The T2 tanker, or T2, was a class of oil tanker constructed and produced in large quantities in the United States during World War II. Only the T3 tankers were larger "navy oilers" of the period. Some 533 T2s were built between 1940 and the end of ...
s after World War II. In 1951, the first purpose-built container vessels began operating in
Denmark ) , song = ( en, "King Christian stood by the lofty mast") , song_type = National and royal anthem , image_map = EU-Denmark.svg , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark ...
, and between
Seattle Seattle ( ) is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With a 2020 population of 737,015, it is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest regio ...
and
Alaska Alaska ( ; russian: Аляска, Alyaska; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state, state located in the Western United States on the northwest extremity o ...
. The first commercially successful container ship was , a T2 tanker, owned by
Malcom McLean Malcolm Purcell McLean (November 14, 1913 – May 25, 2001; later known as Malcom McLean) was an American businessman. He was a transport entrepreneur who invented the modern intermodal shipping container An intermodal container, often call ...
, which carried 58 metal containers between
Newark, New Jersey Newark ( , ) is the List of municipalities in New Jersey, most populous City (New Jersey), city in the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat, seat of Essex County, New Jersey, Essex County and the second largest city within the New Yo ...
and
Houston, Texas Houston (; ) is the List of cities in Texas by population, most populous city in Texas, the Southern United States#Major cities, most populous city in the Southern United States, the List of United States cities by population, fourth-most pop ...
, on its first voyage.Meurn, 2004, pp. 1–3. In 1955, McLean built his company, McLean Trucking into one of the United States' biggest freighter fleets. In 1955, he purchased the small Pan Atlantic Steamship Company from Waterman Steamship and adapted its ships to carry cargo in large uniform metal containers.Cudahy, 2004, p. 19. On April 26, 1956, the first of these rebuilt container vessels, ''Ideal X'', left the Port Newark in New Jersey and a new revolution in modern shipping resulted.Cudahy, 2004, p. 29. MV ''Kooringa'' was the world's first fully cellular purpose-built container ship and was built by Australian company, Associated Steamships Pty. Ltd. in partnership with McIlwraith, McEacharn & Co and commissioned in May 1964. Container vessels eliminate the individual hatches, holds and dividers of the traditional general cargo vessels. The hull of a typical container ship is a huge warehouse divided into cells by vertical guide rails. These cells are designed to hold cargo in pre-packed units – containers. Shipping containers are usually made of steel, but other materials like aluminum, fiberglass or plywood are also used. They are designed to be entirely transferred to and from smaller coastal carriers,
trains In rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transport that transfers passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, which are incorporated in tracks. In contrast to road transport, where ...
,
truck A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo, carry specialized payloads, or perform other utilitarian work. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, but the vast majority feature body-on-frame construction ...
s or
semi-trailer A semi-trailer is a trailer (vehicle), trailer without a front axle. In the United States, the term is also used to refer to the combination of a truck and a semi-trailer; a tractor-trailer. A large proportion of a semi-trailer's weight is sup ...
s (and so are carried by different ''modes'' of transport during one voyage, thus giving the name intermodal transport). There are several types of containers and they are categorized according to their size and functions. Today, about 90% of non-
bulk cargo Bulk cargo is commodity cargo that is transported packaging, unpackaged in large quantities. Description Bulk cargo refers to material in either liquid or granular, particulate form, as a mass of relatively small solids, such as petroleum/ ...
worldwide is transported by container, and modern container ships can carry over 24,000 TEU. As a class, container ships now rival crude oil tankers and
bulk carrier A bulk carrier or bulker is a merchant ship specially naval architecture, designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo — such as Grain trade, grains, coal, ore, steel coils, and cement — in its cargo holds. Since the first specialized bulk c ...
s as the largest commercial vessels on the ocean. Although containerization caused a revolution in the world of shipping, its introduction was not easy. Ports, railway (railroad in the US) companies, and shippers were concerned about the huge costs of developing the ports and railway infrastructure needed to handle container ships, and for the movement of containers on land by rail and road. Trade unions were concerned about massive job loss among port and dock workers at ports, as containers were sure to eliminate several manual jobs of cargo handling. It took ten years of legal battles before container ships would be pressed into international service. In 1966, a container liner service from the US to the Dutch city of Rotterdam commenced. Containerization changed not only the face of shipping, but it also revolutionized world trade. A container ship can be loaded and unloaded in a few hours compared to days in a traditional cargo vessel. This, besides cutting labor costs, has greatly reduced shipping times between ports; for example, it takes a few weeks instead of months for a consignment to be delivered from India to Europe and vice versa. It has resulted in less breakage due to less handling; also, there is less danger of cargo shifting during a voyage. As containers are sealed and only opened at the destination, theft has been greatly reduced. Containerization has lowered shipping expense and decreased shipping time, and this has in turn helped the growth of international trade. Cargo that once arrived in cartons, crates, bales, barrels or bags now comes in factory sealed containers, with no indication to the human eye of their contents, except for a product code that machines can scan and computers trace. This system of tracking has been so exact that a two-week voyage can be timed for arrival with an accuracy of under fifteen minutes. It has resulted in such revolutions as on time guaranteed delivery and just in time manufacturing. Raw materials arrive from factories in sealed containers less than an hour before they are required in manufacture, resulting in reduced inventory expense. Exporters load merchandise in boxes that are provided by the shipping companies. They are then delivered to the docks by road, rail or a combination of both for loading onto container ships. Prior to containerization, huge gangs of men would spend hours fitting various items of cargo into different holds. Today, cranes, installed either on the pier or on the ship, are used to place containers on board the ship. When the hull has been fully loaded, additional containers are stacked on the deck. Today's largest container ships measure in length. They carry loads equal to the cargo-carrying capacity of sixteen to seventeen pre-World War II freighter ships.


Architecture

There are several key points in the design of modern container ships. The hull, similar to that of bulk carriers and general cargo ships, is built around a strong
keel The keel is the bottom-most longitudinal structural element on a vessel. On some sailboats, it may have a Fluid dynamics, hydrodynamic and counterbalancing purpose, as well. As the keel laying, laying down of the keel is the initial step in the c ...
.Hayler & Keever, 2004, p. 15-2. Into this frame is set one or more below-deck cargo holds, numerous tanks, and the
engine room On a ship, the engine room (ER) is the Compartment (ship), compartment where the machinery for marine propulsion is located. To increase a vessel's safety and chances of surviving damage, the machinery necessary for the ship's operation may be ...
. The holds are topped by hatch covers, onto which more containers can be stacked. Many container ships have cargo cranes installed on them, and some have specialized systems for securing containers on board. The hull of a modern cargo ship is a complex arrangement of steel plates and strengthening beams. Resembling ribs, and fastened at right angles to the keel, are the ship's frames. The ship's main deck, the metal platework that covers the top of the hull framework, is supported by beams that are attached to the tops of the frames and run the full breadth of the ship. The beams not only support the deck, but along with the deck, frames, and transverse bulkheads, strengthen and reinforce the shell. Another feature of recent hulls is a set of double-bottom tanks, which provide a second watertight shell that runs most of the length of a ship.Hayler & Keever, 2004, p. 15-3. The double-bottoms generally hold liquids such as fuel oil, ballast water or fresh water. A ship's engine room houses its main engines and auxiliary machinery such as the fresh water and sewage systems, electrical generators, fire pumps, and air conditioners. In most new ships, the engine room is located in the aft portion.


Size categories

Container ships are distinguished into 7 major size categories: small feeder, feeder, feedermax,
Panamax Panamax and New Panamax (or Neopanamax) are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal. The limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority, Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a publication titled ...
,
Post-Panamax Panamax and New Panamax (or Neopanamax) are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal. The limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority, Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a publication titled ...
,
New Panamax Panamax and New Panamax (or Neopanamax) are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal. The limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority, Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a publication titled ...
and ultra-large. As of December 2012, there were 161 container ships in the VLCS class (Very Large Container Ships, more than 10,000 TEU), and 51 ports in the world can accommodate them. The size of a Panamax vessel is limited by the original Panama canal's lock chambers, which can accommodate ships with a beam of up to 32.31 m, a length overall of up to 294.13 m, and a draft of up to 12.04 m. The Post-Panamax category has historically been used to describe ships with a moulded breadth over 32.31 m,UNCTAD, 2010, p. xiii. however the
Panama Canal expansion project The Panama Canal expansion project ( es, ampliación del Canal de Panamá), also called the Third Set of Locks Project, doubled the capacity of the Panama Canal by adding a new lane of traffic allowing for a larger number of ships, and increasin ...
has caused some changes in terminology. The
New Panamax Panamax and New Panamax (or Neopanamax) are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal. The limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority, Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a publication titled ...
category is based on the maximum vessel-size that is able to transit a new third set of locks, which opened in June 2016. The third set of locks were built to accommodate a container ship with a
length overall __NOTOC__ Length overall (LOA, o/a, o.a. or oa) is the maximum length of a vessel's Hull (watercraft), hull measured parallel to the waterline. This length is important while docking the ship. It is the most commonly used way of expressing the ...
of , a maximum width of , and tropical fresh-water draft of .Autoridad del Canal de Panamá, 2009.Autoridad del Canal de Panamá, 2006, p. 45. Such a vessel, called
New Panamax Panamax and New Panamax (or Neopanamax) are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal. The limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority, Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a publication titled ...
class, is wide enough to carry 19 columns of containers, can have a total capacity of approximately 12,000 TEU and is comparable in size to a
capesize Capesize ships are the largest dry cargo ship A cargo ship or freighter is a merchant ship that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, handling th ...
bulk carrier or a
Suezmax "Suezmax" is a naval architecture term for the largest ship measurements capable of transiting the Suez Canal in a laden condition, and is almost exclusively used in reference to oil tanker, tankers. The limiting factors are beam (nautical), ...
tanker. Container ships under 3,000 TEU are generally called feeder ships or feeders. They are small ships that typically operate between smaller container ports. Some feeders collect their cargo from small ports, drop it off at large ports for transshipment on larger ships, and distribute containers from the large port to smaller regional ports.McNicholas, p. 45. This size of vessel is the most likely to carry cargo cranes on board.


Cargo cranes

A major characteristic of a container ship is whether it has cranes installed for handling its cargo. Those that have cargo cranes are called ''geared'' and those that don't are called ''ungeared'' or ''gearless''. The earliest purpose-built container ships in the 1970s were all gearless.UNCTAD, 2010, p. 32. Since then, the percentage of geared newbuilds has fluctuated widely, but has been decreasing overall, with only 7.5% of the container ship capacity in 2009 being equipped with cranes. While geared container ships are more flexible in that they can visit ports that are not equipped with pierside
container crane A container crane (also container handling gantry crane or ship-to-shore crane) is a type of large dockside gantry crane found at container terminal A container port or container terminal is a facility where cargo containers are transship ...
s, they suffer from several drawbacks. To begin with, geared ships will cost more to purchase than a gearless ship. Geared ships also incur greater recurring expenses, such as maintenance and fuel costs. The United Nations Council on Trade and Development characterizes geared ships as a "niche market only appropriate for those ports where low cargo volumes do not justify investment in port cranes or where the public sector does not have the financial resources for such investment". Instead of the rotary cranes, some geared ships have
gantry crane A gantry crane is a crane built atop a gantry, which is a structure used to straddle an object or workspace. They can range from enormous "full" gantry cranes, capable of lifting some of the heaviest loads in the world, to small shop cranes, us ...
s installed.Conrad, 1989, p. 249. These cranes, specialized for container work, are able to roll forward and aft on rails. In addition to the additional capital expense and maintenance costs, these cranes generally load and discharge containers much more slowly than their shoreside counterparts. The introduction and improvement of shoreside
container crane A container crane (also container handling gantry crane or ship-to-shore crane) is a type of large dockside gantry crane found at container terminal A container port or container terminal is a facility where cargo containers are transship ...
s have been a key to the success of the container ship. The first crane that was specifically designed for container work was built in California's Port of Alameda in 1959. By the 1980s, shoreside gantry cranes were capable of moving containers on a 3-minute-cycle, or up to 400 tons per hour. In March 2010, at Port Klang in Malaysia, a new world record was set when 734 container moves were made in a single hour.UNCTAD, 2010, p. 100. The record was achieved using 9 cranes to simultaneously load and unload , a ship with a capacity of 9,600 TEU. Vessels in the 1,500–2,499 TEU range are the most likely size class to have cranes, with more than 60% of this category being geared ships. Slightly less than a third of the very smallest ships (from 100–499 TEU) are geared, and almost no ships with a capacity of over 4,000 TEU are geared.


Cargo holds

Efficiency has always been key in the design of container ships.Meurn & Sauerbier, 2004, pp. 1–16. While containers may be carried on conventional break-bulk ships, cargo holds for dedicated container ships are specially constructed to speed loading and unloading, and to efficiently keep containers secure while at sea. A key aspect of container ship specialization is the design of the hatches, the openings from the main deck to the cargo holds.Hayler & Keever, 2004, pp. 5–10. The hatch openings stretch the entire breadth of the cargo holds, and are surrounded by a raised steel structure known as the ''hatch
coaming Coaming is any vertical surface on a ship designed to deflect or prevent entry of water. It usually consists of a raised section of deck plating around an opening, such as a cargo hatch. Coamings also provide a frame onto which to fit a hatch cove ...
''. On top of the hatch coamings are the hatch covers. Until the 1950s, hatches were typically secured with wooden boards and tarpaulins held down with battens.Hayler & Keever, 2004, pp. 5-9 – 5-10. Today, some hatch covers can be solid metal plates that are lifted on and off the ship by cranes, while others are articulated mechanisms that are opened and closed using powerful hydraulic rams. Another key component of dedicated container-ship design is the use of ''cell guides''. Cell guides are strong vertical structures constructed of metal installed into a ship's cargo holds. These structures guide containers into well-defined rows during loading and provide some support for containers against the ship's rolling at sea. So fundamental to container ship design are cell guides that organizations such as the
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is an intergovernmental organization within the United Nations Secretariat that promotes the interests of Developing country, developing countries in International trade, world t ...
use their presence to distinguish dedicated container ships from general break-bulk cargo ships. A system of three dimensions is used in cargo plans to describe the position of a container aboard the ship.Meurn & Sauerbier, 2004, p. 1-19–1-21. The first coordinate is the ''bay'', which starts at the front of the ship and increases aft. The second coordinate is the ''row''. Rows on the starboard side are given odd numbers and those on the port side are given even numbers. The rows nearest the centerline are given low numbers, and the numbers increase for slots further from the centerline. The third coordinate is the ''tier'', with the first tier at the bottom of the cargo holds, the second tier on top of that, and so forth. Container ships only take 20 foot, 40 foot, and 45 foot containers. 45 footers only fit above deck. 40 foot containers are the primary container size, making up about 90% of all container shipping and since container shipping moves 90% of the world's freight, over 80% of the world's freight moves via 40 foot containers.


Lashing systems

Numerous systems are used to secure containers aboard ships, depending on factors such as the type of ship, the type of container, and the location of the container.Meurn and Sauerbier, 2006, p. 1-35.Peck and Hale, 2000, p. 1-4. Stowage inside the holds of fully cellular (FC) ships is simplest, typically using simple metal forms called container guides, locating cones, and anti-rack spacers to lock the containers together.Peck and Hale, 2000, p. 2. Above-decks, without the extra support of the cell guides, more complicated equipment is used. Three types of systems are currently in wide use: lashing systems, locking systems, and buttress systems. Lashing systems secure containers to the ship using devices made from wire rope, rigid rods, or chains and devices to tension the lashings, such as turnbuckles. The effectiveness of lashings is increased by securing containers to each other, either by simple metal forms (such as stacking cones) or more complicated devices such as twist-lock stackers. A typical twist-lock is inserted into the casting hole of one container and rotated to hold it in place, then another container is lowered on top of it.Peck and Hale, 2000, p. 12. The two containers are locked together by twisting the device's handle. A typical twist-lock is constructed of forged steel and ductile iron and has a shear strength of 48 tonnes.Peck and Hale, 2000, p. 10. The buttress system, used on some large container ships, uses a system of large towers attached to the ship at both ends of each cargo hold.Meurn and Sauerbier, 2006, p. 1-38–1-40. As the ship is loaded, a rigid, removable stacking frame is added, structurally securing each tier of containers together.


Bridge

Container ships have typically had a single bridge and accommodation unit towards the rear, but to reconcile demand for larger container capacity with SOLAS visibility requirements, several new designs have been developed. , some large container ships are being developed with the bridge further forward, separate from the exhaust stack. Some smaller container ships working in European ports and rivers have liftable wheelhouses, which can be lowered to pass under low bridges.


Fleet characteristics

, container ships made up 13.3% of the world's fleet in terms of deadweight tonnage.UNCTAD 2010, p. 30. The world's total of container ship deadweight tonnage has increased from in 1980 to in 2010.UNCTAD 2010, p. 31. The combined deadweight tonnage of container ships and general cargo ships, which also often carry containers, represents 21.8% of the world's fleet.UNCTAD 2006, p. 19. , the average age of container ships worldwide was 10.6 years, making them the youngest general vessel type, followed by
bulk carrier A bulk carrier or bulker is a merchant ship specially naval architecture, designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo — such as Grain trade, grains, coal, ore, steel coils, and cement — in its cargo holds. Since the first specialized bulk c ...
s at 16.6 years,
oil tanker An oil tanker, also known as a petroleum tanker, is a ship designed for the bulk cargo, bulk transport of petroleum, oil or its products. There are two basic types of oil tankers: crude tankers and product tankers. Crude tankers move large quant ...
s at 17 years, general cargo ships at 24.6 years, and others at 25.3 years.UNCTAD 2010, p. 34. Most of the world's carrying capacity in fully cellular container ships is in the liner service, where ships trade on scheduled routes.UNCTAD, 2010, pp. 85. As of January 2010, the top 20 liner companies controlled 67.5% of the world's fully cellular container capacity, with 2,673 vessels of an average capacity of 3,774 TEU. The remaining 6,862 fully cellular ships have an average capacity of 709 TEU each. The vast majority of the capacity of fully cellular container ships used in the liner trade is owned by German shipowners, with approximately 75% owned by Hamburg brokers. It is a common practice for the large container lines to supplement their own ships with chartered-in ships, for example in 2009, 48.9% of the tonnage of the top 20 liner companies was chartered-in in this manner.


Flag states

International law requires that every merchant ship be registered in a country, called its
flag state The flag state of a merchant vessel is the jurisdiction under whose laws the vessel is Ship registration, registered or licensed, and is deemed the nationality of the vessel. A merchant vessel must be registered and can only be registered in one ju ...
.ICFTU et al., 2002, p. 7. A ship's flag state exercises regulatory control over the vessel and is required to inspect it regularly, certify the ship's equipment and crew, and issue safety and pollution prevention documents. , the United States
Bureau of Transportation Statistics The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), part of the United States Department of Transportation The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) is one of the executive departments of the U.S. federal government. It is ...
count 2,837 container ships of or greater worldwide.Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2007, p. 80.
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a List of transcontinental countries#North America and South America, transcontinental country spanning the Central America, southern ...
was the world's largest
flag state The flag state of a merchant vessel is the jurisdiction under whose laws the vessel is Ship registration, registered or licensed, and is deemed the nationality of the vessel. A merchant vessel must be registered and can only be registered in one ju ...
for container ships, with 541 of the vessels in its registry. Seven other flag states had more than 100 registered container ships:
Liberia Liberia (), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to Liberia–Sierra Leone border, its northwest, Guinea to Guinea–Liberia border, its north, Ivory Coast to Ivory Coast ...
(415),
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated between ...
(248),
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
(177),
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
(139), the
Marshall Islands The Marshall Islands ( mh, Ṃajeḷ), officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands ( mh, Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ),'' () is an independent island country and microstate near the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the Internati ...
(118) and the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
(104). The Panamanian, Liberian, and Marshallese flags are open registries and considered by the International Transport Workers' Federation to be flags of convenience. By way of comparison, traditional maritime nations such as the United States and Japan only had 75 and 11 registered container ships, respectively.


Vessel purchases

In recent years, oversupply of container ship capacity has caused prices for new and used ships to fall. From 2008 to 2009, new container ship prices dropped by 19–33%, while prices for 10-year-old container ships dropped by 47–69%.UNCTAD 2010, p. 53, 57. In March 2010, the average price for a geared 500-TEU container ship was $10 million, while gearless ships of 6,500 and 12,000 TEU averaged prices of $74 million and $105 million respectively.UNCTAD 2010, p. 56. At the same time, secondhand prices for 10-year-old geared container ships of 500-, 2,500-, and 3,500-TEU capacity averaged prices of $4 million, $15 million, and $18 million respectively.UNCTAD 2010, p. 57. In 2009, 11,669,000 gross tons of newly built container ships were delivered.UNCTAD 2010, p. 50. Over 85% of this new capacity was built in the Republic of Korea, China, and Japan, with Korea accounting for over 57% of the world's total alone. New container ships accounted for 15% of the total new tonnage that year, behind bulk carriers at 28.9% and oil tankers at 22.6%.


Scrapping

Most ships are removed from the fleet through a process known as scrapping. Scrapping is rare for ships under 18 years old and common for those over 40 years in age.UNCTAD, 2010, p. 35. Ship-owners and buyers negotiate scrap prices based on factors such as the ship's empty weight (called light ton displacement or LTD) and prices in the scrap metal market. Scrapping rates are volatile, the price per light ton displacement has swung from a high of $650 per LTD in mid-2008 to $200 per LTD in early 2009, before building to $400 per LTD in March 2010.UNCTAD 2010, p. 51. , over 96% of the world's scrapping activity takes place in China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.UNCTAD 2010, p. 53. The global economic downturn of 2008–2009 resulted in more ships than usual being sold for scrap. In 2009, 364,300 TEU worth of container ship capacity was scrapped, up from 99,900 TEU in 2008. Container ships accounted for 22.6% of the total gross tonnage of ships scrapped that year.UNCTAD 2010, p. 52. Despite the surge, the capacity removed from the fleet only accounted for 3% of the world's container ship capacity. The average age of container ships scrapped in 2009 was 27.0 years.


Largest ships

Economies of scale have dictated an upward trend in the size of container ships in order to reduce expenses. However, there are certain limitations to the size of container ships. Primarily, these are the availability of sufficiently large main engines and the availability of a sufficient number of ports and terminals prepared and equipped to handle ultra-large container ships. Furthermore, the permissible maximum ship dimensions in some of the world's main waterways could present an upper limit in terms of vessel growth. This primarily concerns the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popular ...
and the Singapore Strait. In 2008 the South Korean shipbuilder STX announced plans to construct a container ship capable of carrying , and with a proposed length of and a beam of . If constructed, the container ship would become the largest seagoing vessel in the world. Since even very large container ships are vessels with relatively low draft compared to large tankers and bulk carriers, there is still considerable room for vessel growth. Compared to today's largest container ships, Maersk Line's '' Emma Mærsk''-type series, a container ship would only be moderately larger in terms of exterior dimensions. According to a 2011 estimate, an ultra-large container ship of would measure , compared to for the ''Emma Mærsk'' class. It would have an estimated deadweight of circa 220,000 tons. While such a vessel might be near the upper limit for a Suez Canal passage, the so-called Malaccamax concept (for
Straits of Malacca The Strait of Malacca is a narrow stretch of water, 500 mi (800 km) long and from 40 to 155 mi (65–250 km) wide, between the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia) to the northeast and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the southwest, connec ...
) does not apply for container ships, since the Malacca and Singapore Straits' draft limit of about is still above that of any conceivable container ship design. In 2011, Maersk announced plans to build a new " Triple E" family of container ships with a capacity of 18,000 TEU, with an emphasis on lower fuel consumption. In the present market situation, main engines will not be as much of a limiting factor for vessel growth either. The steadily rising expense of
fuel oil Fuel oil is any of various fractional distillation, fractions obtained from the distillation of petroleum (crude oil). Such oils include distillates (the lighter fractions) and residue (chemistry), residues (the heavier fractions). Fuel oils inclu ...
in the early 2010s had prompted most container lines to adapt a slower, more economical voyage speed of about 21 knots, compared to earlier top speeds of 25 or more knots. Subsequently, newly built container ships can be fitted with a smaller main engine. Engine types fitted to today's ships of are thus sufficiently large to propel future vessels of or more. Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping line, nevertheless opted for twin engines (two smaller engines working two separate propellers), when ordering a series of ten 18,000 TEU vessels from Daewoo Shipbuilding in February 2011. The ships were delivered between 2013 and 2014. In 2016, some experts believed that the current largest container ships are at the optimum size, and could not economically be larger, as port facilities would be too expensive, port handling too time consuming, the number of suitable ports too low, and insurance cost too high. In March 2017 the first ship with an official capacity over 20,000 TEUs was christened at Samsung Heavy Industries. ''MOL Triumph'' has a capacity of 20,150 TEUs. Samsung Heavy Industries was expected to deliver several ships of over 20,000 TEUs in 2017, and has orders for at least ten vessels in that size range for OOCL and MOL.


Freight market

The act of hiring a ship to carry cargo is called chartering. Outside special
bulk cargo Bulk cargo is commodity cargo that is transported packaging, unpackaged in large quantities. Description Bulk cargo refers to material in either liquid or granular, particulate form, as a mass of relatively small solids, such as petroleum/ ...
markets, ships are hired by three types of
charter A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified. It is implicit that the granter retains superiority (or sovereignty), and that the rec ...
agreements: the voyage charter, the time charter, and the bareboat charter.Aragon & Messer, 2001, p. 233. In a voyage charter, the charterer rents the vessel from the loading port to the discharge port.Huber 2001, p. 212. In a time charter, the vessel is hired for a set period of time, to perform voyages as the charterer directs. In a bareboat charter, the charterer acts as the ship's operator and manager, taking on responsibilities such as providing the crew and maintaining the vessel.Huber 2001, pp. 212–213. The completed chartering contract is known as a charter party.Huber 2001, p. 213. The
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is an intergovernmental organization within the United Nations Secretariat that promotes the interests of Developing country, developing countries in International trade, world t ...
NCTAD tracks in its 2010 ''Review of Maritime Trade'' two aspects of container shipping prices:UNCTAD, 2010, pp. 85–89. The first one is a chartering price, specifically the price to time-charter a 1 TEU slot for 14 tonnes of cargo on a container ship. The other is the
freight rate A freight rate (historically and in ship chartering simply freight) is a price at which a certain cargo is delivered from one point to another. The price depends on the form of the cargo, the mode of transport (truck, ship, train, aircraft), the w ...
; or comprehensive daily cost to deliver one-TEU worth of cargo on a given route.Huber 2001, p. 225. As a result of the
late-2000s recession The Great Recession was a period of marked general decline, i.e. a recession, observed in national economies globally that occurred from late 2007 into 2009. The scale and timing of the recession varied from country to country (see map). At t ...
, both indicators showed sharp drops during 2008–2009, and have shown signs of stabilization since 2010. UNCTAD uses the Hamburg Shipbrokers’ Association (formally the ''Vereinigung Hamburger Schiffsmakler und Schiffsagenten e. V.'' or VHSS for short) as its main industry source for container ship freight prices. The VHSS maintains a few indices of container ship charter prices. The oldest, which dates back to 1998, is called the ''Hamburg Index''. This index considers time-charters on fully cellular container ships controlled by Hamburg brokers. It is limited to charters of 3 months or more, and presented as the average daily cost in U.S. dollars for a one-TEU slot with a weight of 14 tonnes. The Hamburg Index data is divided into ten categories based primarily on vessel carrying capacity. Two additional categories exist for small vessels of under 500 TEU that carry their own cargo cranes. In 2007, VHSS started another index, the ''New ConTex'' which tracks similar data obtained from an international group of shipbrokers. The Hamburg Index shows some clear trends in recent chartering markets. First, rates were generally increasing from 2000 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008, rates slowly decreased, and in mid-2008 began a "dramatic decline" of approximately 75%, which lasted until rates stabilized in April 2009. Rates have ranged from $2.70 to $35.40 in this period, with prices generally lower on larger ships. The most resilient sized vessel in this time period were those from 200 to 300 TEU, a fact that the United Nations Council on Trade and Development attributes to lack of competition in this sector. Overall, in 2010, these rates rebounded somewhat, but remained at approximately half of their 2008 values. As of 2011, the index shows signs of recovery for container shipping, and combined with increases in global capacity, indicates a positive outlook for the sector in the near future. UNCTAD also tracks container
freight rate A freight rate (historically and in ship chartering simply freight) is a price at which a certain cargo is delivered from one point to another. The price depends on the form of the cargo, the mode of transport (truck, ship, train, aircraft), the w ...
s. Freight rates are expressed as the total price in U.S. dollars for a shipper to transport one TEU worth of cargo along a given route. Data is given for the three main container liner routes: U.S.-Asia, U.S.-Europe, and Europe-Asia. Prices are typically different between the two legs of a voyage, for example the Asia-U.S. rates have been significantly higher than the return U.S.-Asia rates in recent years. Generally, from the fourth quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009, both the volume of container cargo and freight rates have dropped sharply. In 2009, the freight rates on the U.S.–Europe route were sturdiest, while the Asia-U.S. route fell the most. Liner companies responded to their overcapacity in several ways. For example, in early 2009, some container lines dropped their freight rates to zero on the Asia-Europe route, charging shippers only a surcharge to cover operating costs. They decreased their overcapacity by lowering the ships' speed (a strategy called " slow steaming") and by laying up ships. Slow steaming increased the length of the Europe-Asia routes to a record high of over 40 days. Another strategy used by some companies was to manipulate the market by publishing notices of rate increases in the press, and when "a notice had been issued by one carrier, other carriers followed suit".UNCTAD, 2010, p. 89. The
Trans-Siberian Railroad The Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR; , , ) connects European Russia to the Russian Far East. Spanning a length of over , it is the longest railway line in the world. It runs from the city of Moscow in the west to the city of Vladivostok in the eas ...
(TSR) has recently become a more viable alternative to container ships on the Asia-Europe route. This railroad can typically deliver containers in 1/3 to 1/2 of the time of a sea voyage, and in late 2009 announced a 20% reduction in its container shipping rates. With its 2009 rate schedule, the TSR will transport a forty-foot container to Poland from Yokohama for $2,820, or from Pusan for $2,154.


Shipping industry alliances

In an effort to control costs and maximize capacity utilization on ever-larger ships, vessel sharing agreements, co-operative agreements, and slot-exchanges have become a growing feature of the maritime container shipping industry. As of March 2015, 16 of the world's largest container shipping lines had consolidated their routes and services accounting for 95 percent of container cargo volumes moving in the dominant east-west trade routes. Carriers remain operationally independent, as they are forbidden by antitrust regulators in multiple jurisdictions from colluding on freight rates or capacity. Similarities can be drawn with
Airline alliance An airline alliance is an aviation industry arrangement between two or more airlines agreeing to cooperate on a substantial level. Alliances may provide marketing branding to facilitate travelers making inter-airline codeshare agreement, codeshare ...
s.


Container ports

Container traffic through a port is often tracked in terms of twenty foot equivalent units or TEU of throughput.UNCTAD, 2010, p.97. , the
Port of Shanghai The Port of Shanghai (), located in the vicinity of Shanghai Shanghai (; , , Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four direct-administered municipalities of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The city is located on th ...
was the world's busiest container port, with 43,303,000 TEU handled. That year, seven of the busiest ten container ports were in the
People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
, with
Shanghai Shanghai (; , , Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four direct-administered municipalities of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The city is located on the southern estuary of the Yangtze River, with the Huangpu River flow ...
in 1st place,
Ningbo Ningbo (; Ningbo dialect, Ningbonese: Romanization of Wu Chinese, ''gnin² poq⁷'' , Putonghua, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ), Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanized as Ningpo, is a major sub-provincial city in northeast Zheji ...
3rd,
Shenzhen Shenzhen (; ; ; ), also historically known as Sham Chun, is a major Sub-provincial division, sub-provincial city and one of the Special economic zones of China, special economic zones of China. The city is located on the east bank of the Pea ...
4th,
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton () and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in southern China. Located on the Pearl River about north-northwest of Hong K ...
5th,
Qingdao Qingdao (, Comparison of Chinese transcription systems, also spelled Tsingtao; , Mandarin: ) is a major city in eastern Shandong Provinces of China, Province. The city's name in Chinese characters literally means "Azure (color), azure island". ...
7th,
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
8th and
Tianjin Tianjin (; ; Mandarin: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin (), is a Direct-administered municipalities of China, municipality and a coastal metropolis in North China, Northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea. It ...
9th. Rounding out the top ten ports were
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
at 2nd,
Busan Busan (), officially known as is South Korea's most populous city after Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''d ...
in South Korea at 6th and
Rotterdam Rotterdam ( , , , lit. ''The Dam on the River Rotte'') is the second largest city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., ed ...
in the Netherlands in the 10th position. In total, the busiest twenty container ports handled 220,905,805 TEU in 2009, almost half of the world's total estimated container traffic that year of 465,597,537 TEU.


Losses and safety problems

It has been estimated that container ships lose between 2,000Containers Overboard!

TT Club
'' (Maritime insurers). Accessed: 26 February 2011.
and 10,000
containers A container is any receptacle or enclosure for holding a product used in storage, packaging, and transportation, including shipping. Things kept inside of a container are protected on several sides by being inside of its structure. The term ...
at sea each year, costing $370 million.Hauke Kite‐Powell
Benefits to maritime commerce from ocean surface vector wind observations and forecasts
''
NOAA The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (abbreviated as NOAA ) is an United States scientific and regulatory agency within the United States Department of Commerce that forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditio ...
'', December 2008. Accessed: 26 February 2011.
A survey for the six years 2008 through 2013 estimates average losses of individual containers overboard at 546 per year, and average total losses including catastrophic events such as vessel sinkings or groundings at 1,679 per yearSurvey Results for Containers Lost At Sea – 2014 Update
, June 2014. Accessed: 16 August 2019.
More recently, a survey conducted by the WSC from 2008-2019, saw an average of 1,382 shipping containers lost at sea. However, in the 3-year period from 2017-2019, that number was nearly halved, down to an average of 779 containers lost annually. Most go overboard on the open sea during storms but there are some examples of whole ships being lost with their cargo. One major shipping accident occurred in 2013 when the MOL Comfort sank with 4,293 containers onboard in the Indian Ocean. When containers are dropped, they immediately become an environmental threat – termed "
marine debris Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally been released in a sea or ocean. Floating oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the center of gyres and on coastlines, frequently washing ...
".Sources of Marine Debris
''
NOAA The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (abbreviated as NOAA ) is an United States scientific and regulatory agency within the United States Department of Commerce that forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditio ...
''. Retrieved: 25 November 2010.
Once in the ocean, they fill with water and sink if the contents cannot hold air. Rough waters smash the container, sinking it quickly. As container ships get larger and stacking becomes higher, the threat of containers toppling into the sea during a storm increases. This results from a phenomenon called " parametric rolling," by which a ship can roll 30-40 degrees during rough seas creating a powerful torque on a 10-high stack of containers which can easily snap lashings and locks of the stack, resulting in losses into the sea. The threat of
piracy Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable goods. Those who conduct acts of piracy are called pirates, v ...
can cost a container shipping company as much as $100 million per year due to longer routes and higher speed, particularly near East Africa. On 23 March 2021, the '' Ever Given'' container ship was passing through the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popular ...
on its way to
Rotterdam Rotterdam ( , , , lit. ''The Dam on the River Rotte'') is the second largest city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., ed ...
from China when it became stuck and blocked the canal.


See also

* BBC Box *
Container on barge Container on barge is a form of intermodal freight transport where containers are stacked on a barge and towed to a destination on an inland waterway. Mississippi River & tributaries There is limited use of this mode of transport because a la ...
* Environmental impact of shipping * List of largest container ships * List of world's longest ships * Ship resistance and propulsion


Notes


References


Shipboard operations

* * * * * *


Vessel categories

* * * *


Statistics

* * * * *


History

* *. *. * * * * * * *


Safety and security

*


External links


Ancient and modern mariners: The romance of the high seas in an age of quantification
– article in ''
The Economist ''The Economist'' is a British weekly newspaper printed in Paper size#Demitab, demitab format and Electronic publishing, published digitally. It focuses on current affairs, international business, politics, technology, and culture. Based in Lo ...
'' about a voyage on a 21st-century container ship * {{DEFAULTSORT:Container Ship Maritime transport Ship types Intermodal containers Port infrastructure