When talking about container ship size, the trend is “The bigger, the better”. That seems to be the thinking of the largest shipping lines, which nowadays count on their fleets with 19,000 TEU’s vessels. However, even if mega container ships are a big deal for the maritime transport, some experts assure that the benefits come with huge risks.
Fact: The size of container ships has increased 80% in the last 10 years. (Source: Allianz, 2015)
A recent example of these risks was the one described by the Captain George H. Livingstone. On his article Ultra Containerships: How Big is too Big? Livingstone exposes that an extreme size leads to extreme risks. He introduces the case of the recent grounding of the Ultra Large Container Vessel “CSCL Indian Ocean” (19,000 TEU’s) on the Elbe River last march.
The containership of 184,320 ton had a hard grounding when travelling from Felixstowe to Hamburg. 12 tugboats working full time were necessary to refloat the ship. Fortunately, there was no significant loss of life, material damage or environmental contamination.
The financial services company Allianz headquartered in Munich, said on its 2015 “Safety and Shipping Review” the maritime industry should be ready to face a loss exceeding $1 billion in future featuring a container vessel. Beyond the economic issues, the environmental and business implications could be outrageous.
The German company explained that the risks increase when considering that only a few ports are in proper conditions to operate with this mega vessels, concentrating the traffic and the possibilities of a disaster as well.
Despite these alarming facts, the race for the mega container ships is not close to the end. According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the first container ships with a 21,000 capacity are expected for 2017, and the ones with a 24,000 TEU’s capacity would be ready for 2020.
Are you a fan of the mega vessel trend? Do you agree with an implementation of a cap for containerships sizes?