The Rise of Mega Container Ships: Evolution Since 2006


Since 2006, the container shipping industry has undergone a significant transformation, marked by the doubling in size of the average container ship to 4,580 TEU. This shift has been propelled by the emergence of larger vessels, with those exceeding 12,000 TEU capacity now constituting 51% of the fleet’s capacity expansion.

Evolution of Container Ship Sizes: From Emma Maersk to Post Panamax

The delivery of the Emma Maersk in August 2006 heralded the era of ultra-large container ships, significantly larger than their predecessors. This trend continued with the introduction of Post-Panamax vessels, surpassing even the dimensions of the new Panama Canal locks.

Impact on Cost and Emissions: Efficiency of Large Ships

The advent of Neo Panamax and Post Panamax ships has led to notable reductions in both cost and greenhouse gas emissions per TEU compared to smaller vessels. The larger ships boast a 25% decrease in construction costs, bunker consumption, and emissions per TEU, driving efficiency gains in the industry.

Implications for Service Frequency and Growth: Driving Fleet Expansion

Despite the dominance of larger vessels, the fleet has expanded by 68% since 2006, facilitating service frequency and coverage expansion. While sailing speeds have decreased, Neo Panamax and Post Panamax ships continue to drive growth, accounting for nearly 70% of the capacity on order and shaping the future trajectory of the container shipping industry.

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Source: BIMCO