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Big ships equal bigger challenges for ports and equipment manufacturers

 

Aug 01 2015

 

The global marine terminal business is estimated to be a $63 billion industry annually and at an estimated 4% plus per annum is still out pacing worldwide GDP growth. In the past four decades, Asia has been the biggest reason for growth in container terminal operations. It takes only a cursory look at a list of the world’s largest container ports to see where the growth has come from over the last forty years. Even now as trade growth in China slows, volumes on the Asia to Europe and Asia to North America trade lanes still remain the principal drivers behind container terminal expansion.

 

But the terminal industry is facing some significant hurtles as the next generation of boxships enter service. The rapid increase in the size of container ships has created a challenge for both the terminals and the manufacturers supplying the terminal equipment.

 

The rise in size has been phenomenal. Back in 1972 the containership Liverpool Bay at 2,500 TEU represented the upper end of line haul ships. The Liverpool Bay stored her ocean containers in 13 rows across. Sixteen years later, the Marchen Maersk at 4,300 TEU, still stowed the boxes at 13-across. When the first of the 6,000 TEU ships entered service in 1996, the standard width was up to 17 across. In 2004 with 9,200 TEU, MSC Pamela inched up to 18-across, and shortly later, the 15,550 Emma Maersk checked in at 22 across. Now the new generations of near 20,000 TEU ships like the Maersk Mckinney Moller are 23 across. With such rapid changes, how does a terminal keep up?