Container Ship

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Container ship NYK Virgo on the Elbe
Container ship on the Elbe in Hamburg

A container ship is a type of ship that is designed for the transport of ISO containers .

The cargo capacity of container ships is in TEU ( Twenty-foot Equivalent Units . See tonnage indicated) and corresponds to the number of 20- foot - containers that can be loaded. 40-foot containers (measured in FEU such as Forty-foot Equivalent Unit ) are also common, and since the mid-1990s 45, 48 and 53-foot containers as well as the less common 30-foot containers, which, however, are Deck have to be loaded, as the Cellguides (guide rails in the vertical) are only designed for 40-foot containers. For very large or heavy piece goods, there are also so-called flat racks , open-top containers or platforms , which can be loaded in conjunction with standard containers.

Up to a cargo capacity of 3400 TEU, container ships sometimes have their own loading gear , ships with higher capacities require the corresponding superstructure in the port for container handling . These are usually container cranes at container terminals . The trend towards ever larger container ships is causing an increasing concentration of possible points of contact for container ships in relatively few, central container ports , through which a large part of the sea ​​trade takes place. These ports become hubs ; from and to there are smaller container ships such. B. Feeder ships (see also reloading problem - an optimization problem from the field of logistics ).

According to statistical surveys by the Alphaliner industry service , 6,145 container ships with a loading capacity of 22.8 million TEU were in use worldwide in February 2019. The three largest shipping companies were AP Møller-Mærsk (17.7%), Mediterranean Shipping Company (14.4%) and the COSCO Group (12.2%).

After many years of falling freight rates and considerable overcapacities as a result of the financial crisis of 2008, the forecasts for global container traffic have been better for several years. In the first few months of 2018, growth even reached a three-year high, but then cooled significantly, which is why Simon Heaney of consulting firm Drewry described 2018 as one of the most volatile years the industry has ever experienced. Business in 2019 should therefore be similarly unpredictable. Drewry expects a fleet growth of 2.5% and thus only half as much supply dynamics as in 2018.

In contrast, Peter Sand from the Copenhagen shipping organization The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) expects freight rates to fall in 2019, as the estimated growth in demand of 3.8% is offset by a fleet growth of 4.4%. This means that the offer is expanding significantly more than originally expected. BIMCO anticipates that the US-Chinese trade war will affect significantly more products that are transported in containers in the future. In autumn 2018, freight rates in Asia-Europe traffic fell by 4.6% and in Asia-USA traffic by 3.8%. The rates from Asia to South America fell by only 1.9%.

The CEO of MAERSK, Søren Skou, reduced his growth forecast for global container traffic demand for 2019 to only “one to three percent” and sees considerable economic uncertainties. In the opinion of Hapag-Lloyd boss Rolf Habben Jansen, however, fears of growing overcapacities are completely unjustified, as he believes that demand will increase by four to five percent in the coming years. The consolidation of the industry via mergers will continue until only nine of the twenty largest shipping companies are left.

It is questionable whether the global fleet will actually shrink in 2020, since from then on the environmentally harmful sulfur oxide content in marine fuel will have to be reduced significantly and many outdated ships will have to be taken off the market. The insurance broker Lloyd’s in London is even anticipating a serious shortage of supplying feeder ships by 2020, as ever larger container ships have to be loaded and unloaded.


Side view of the Ideal X
First generation container ship, Manchester Concord
American Alliance general cargo carrier converted into a container ship in 1970

The container ship was built in the USA in the 1950s . After the Clifford J. Rogers , which was commissioned in 1955 with its still very small containers, the converted tanker Ideal X of the forwarding company Malcolm McLean followed in 1956 . He began by transporting the trailer housings of semi- trailers without a chassis over long stretches of the sea by ship. In 1960 McLean founded the Sea-Land Corporation . As early as the first half of the 1960s, new buildings planned as semi-container ships were built , such as the Tobias Mærsk , which was commissioned in 1963, and in 1964 the Kooringa, the first new building planned as a full container ship for ISO containers, was put into operation in Australia .

In the mid-1960s there were already 171 (albeit almost all converted) container ships in the United States. In 1966, the container ship Fairland of the Sea-Land shipping company in Bremen entered Germany for the first time . As early as July 31, 1968, 102 semi or full container ships were commissioned or under construction worldwide. From 1968 the conversion of the most important liner services to container traffic began, initially in the North Atlantic traffic (between USA / east coast and western Europe), from October 1968 the transpacific service between Japan – USA / west coast. The Hakone Maru was used here by the NYK Line . At the end of 1968, Bremer Vulkan built the first container ships (750 TEU each) in Germany with the Weser Express for Norddeutscher Lloyd and Blohm + Voss , Hamburg, with the Elbe Express for HAPAG . They came into operation with the sister ships Rhein Express and Mosel Express on the North Atlantic route. Also in 1968 the Hamburg shipping company August Bolten deployed the Bärbel Bolten (140 TEU), another full container ship under the German flag.

On July 1, 1970, the global stock of semi and full container ships was 201 units (including 154 full container ships), the following year the number of full container ships was 231 units. In 1969 the liner service Europe – Australia / New Zealand was switched to container traffic, at the end of 1971 Europe – Far East, in May 1977 Europe – South Africa and Europe – Caribbean / Gulf of Mexico . The route South Africa – Far East followed in 1981 (safari service). This completed the conversion of the most important line connections to container traffic.

In 1984 the shipping company United States Lines offered a Round the World Service running eastwards for the first time . This service, operated by twelve American New York class ships, ended after six months when the shipping company went bankrupt. A service started in the same year by the Evergreen Marine from Taiwan via the Panama Canal and Suez Canal with twelve ships each in both directions was abandoned around 1999, as regular service from point A to B is more efficient. In the 1990s, the German Senator Lines launched a Round the World Service , but hired it in favor of a Pendulum Service .

The container dimensions of 20 and 40 ft long, 8 ft wide and 8 ft 6  in height have established themselves internationally. The old container size of 35 ft introduced by Sea Land has been dropped. Instead, 40 ft and 45 ft high cube containers are increasingly being used today, and within the USA also 53 ft containers, since there are longer semitrailers than are permitted in Europe.

Technical development


Container ship generations
generation year length width Draft TEU
1. until 1968 180 m 25 m 9.0 m 500-800
2. from 1969 225 m 30.5 m 11.5 m 1500
3. from 1972 275 m 32 m 12.5 m 3000
4th from 1987 287 m 39 m 13.5 m 4500
5. from 1997 325 m 41 m 14.1 m 5500
6th from 1999 345 m 43 m 14.5 m over 8000
7th since 2006 398 m 56 m 16.0 m over 14,000

Container ships are divided into generations .

The size of the container ships built in 1968 was the unit of measurement for a 1st generation ship.

At the beginning of 1969, the first ship of the second generation appeared with the Encounter Bay , almost all of which had a maximum ship width of 30.5 m, that is, a maximum of twelve containers could be stowed side by side on deck.

For a long time, the upper limit of the dimensions of container ships was 275 m long and 32.3 m wide so that they could pass through the (old) Panama Canal . Ships of this size were previously called the 3rd generation.

Since around 1988, Panamax has been used to refer to ships that also use the maximum length of Panama Canal locks (294 meters) (and not just the width).

In the initial phase (around 1972) a maximum of 3000 TEU was the upper limit of what was technically feasible, in 1988 it was 4300 TEU. Later “Panamax” newbuildings could load up to 5060 TEU.

The name Post-Panamax is used for larger types of ships with a width of more than 32.3 m . Ships with over 7,000 TEU are (as of 2011) referred to as Super-Post-Panamax or Post-Panamax-Plus ships, those over 11,000 TEU as New Panamax .

Post panamax ships

Two ships of the first post-Panamax class

The first container ships wider than 32.3 m (Panama Canal locks) are the five President Truman class ships operated by American President Lines (APL, USA). They were built in 1988 by the Bremer Vulkan (Vegesack) and HDW (Kiel) shipyards and only used in the shipping company's trans-Pacific service. They were 275.0 m above sea level. long and 38.5 m wide with 61,296 GT, 53,613 dwt and could carry a maximum of 4400 TEU. A maximum of 15 containers were stowed side by side on deck.

In 1991, the CGM Normandy was built by Daewoo Heavy Industries for the French CGM (today's CMA CGM ). She had a capacity of 4410 TEU and was the first post-Panamax ship in the Europe-Far East service. Here, too, 15 containers could be placed next to each other on deck with a ship width of 38.0 m. In 1992 the Bunga Pelangi followed for the shipping company MISC ( Malaysia International Shipping Corporation Berhad ) with similar dimensions.

In 1994/1995 Nedlloyd Hong Kong and Nedlloyd Honshu followed as the first and only post-Panamax open-top ships for Royal Nedlloyd . In December 1994, three ships of the NYK Altair class for the NYK Line , five structurally identical ships for the Mitsui OSK Lines and the OOCL California class of the shipping company OOCL (Hong Kong), which were 40 meters wide on deck 16 for the first time, followed from Japan Stow containers side by side.

In 1995 a further six post-Panamax ships ( C11 class ) were built for American President Lines (APL) , three each at HDW (Kiel) and Daewoo Heavy Industries. At that time (until the beginning of 1999) APL had the largest post-Panamax fleet with a total of eleven such ships.

In 1996, the Regina Mærsk type was the first series of the Very Large Container Ships (VLCS) to go into service. They were the first 42.8 meters wide (they can stow 17 rows of containers next to each other) and the first over 300 meters long container ships. With a slot capacity of 7,000 TEU, the ships were at least 50% larger than the previous record holders - such a leap in size had never happened before.

Projects and completed construction drafts from classification societies and / or shipyards for a type called Suezmax container ship for up to 14,000 TEU have been around since 1996. Since the Suez Canal was expanded, however, larger ships such as the Emma Mærsk class can also pass through the Suez Canal. Drafts for a Malaccamax container ship for 21,000 TEU have also been calculated. However, this did not take into account the limitations on handling capacities and the draft restrictions in the container ports.

The German Hapag-Lloyd AG only stuck to the Panamax ship type for a very long time and was the last of the larger container shipping companies to start building a first post-Panamax ship, the Hamburg Express, in 2001 .

In 2005, the first container ship with a width of 45.6 m, the MSC Pamela, was put into service, where 18 containers can be stowed side by side for the first time.

Ultra Large Container Ships (ULCS)

The container ship Edith Mærsk , a sister ship of the Emma Mærsk , in Bremerhaven (2007)

The Odense shipyard realized from September 2006 with the Emma Mærsk class a very large container vessel type with a capacity of 14,770 TEU. Despite its size, it gets by with a ship's propeller; it is powered by a 14-cylinder Wärtsilä RT-flex 96 CB two-stroke engine with an output of well over 80 MW. The eight ships of the Emma Mærsk class, which all have Mærsk names beginning with “E”, are 56.4 m wide and can load 22 containers side by side on deck. They are 397 m long and have a maximum draft of 16 m. Up to eleven layers of containers are stacked on top of each other in the hull of the ship, and a maximum of nine layers on deck above. There are connections for 1000 refrigerated containers.

In 2016, work began on increasing the container capacity of the ships by around 3,100 TEU by increasing the deckhouses and lashing bridges at Beihai Shipbuilding in Qingdao . The renovations should be completed in 2018. The container capacity increases to 17,816 TEU.

The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt for 16,020 TEU calls at the Port of Hamburg on May 28, 2013

In 2008 the MSC Daniela was put into service. She is in the service of the Mediterranean Shipping Company . With a length of 366 m and a width of 51.2 m, the "Megaboxer" classified by Germanischer Lloyd is designed for the new lock canal of the Panama Canal and can transport 13,800 TEU. The lead ship of the MSC Daniela class initiated the construction of a series of sister ships, which also includes the - albeit differently motorized - CMA CGM Christophe Colomb .

In February 2011, Maersk ordered ten 18,270 TEU ships of the Triple E class with an option for 20 more ships. In June 2011, the option to build another ten ships was exercised, increasing the building order to 20 ships. They are equipped with two main engines. Her maximum speed is 23 knots (that of the Emma Maersk class 25 knots). The ships are also designed to be operated in a fuel-efficient manner at lower speeds ( slow steaming ).

"Triple E" stands for "economy of scale, energy efficiency and environmentally improved", that is, economical by size , energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. At the end of 2012, 163 container ships with a capacity of more than 10,000 TEU were sailing around the world, including the 20 Triple-E's from Maersk, another 120 were ordered. The first of these ships had its semi-launch in Korea on February 23, 2013 .

At the beginning of March 2015, the Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines placed an order for the first units with over 20,000 spaces. The MOL 20,000 TEU type started up in 2017. In the opinion of shipping experts, this marked the "end of the flagpole"; other experts expected ships of 22,000 TEU and more within a few years. A 2015 study by the OECD found that the cost savings in the ultra-large class are very low. In addition, the economic risk is enormous, since the largest ships only pay off if they are really fully loaded. Ultimately, only “Korean shipyards” benefited from “XXL ships”.

Development of the ship size

Construction year Ship name Length in m Width in m Max. Draft in m TEU GT tdw Shipyard Shipping company / state
2020 HMM Algeciras ( HMM Megamax-24 ) 399.9 61.4 16.5 23,964 223.930 Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), South Korea Hyundai Merchant Marine / KR
2019 MSC Gülsün (MSC Megamax-24) 399.9 61.5 16.5 23,756 232.618 197,500 Samsung Heavy Industries, South Korea MSC / CH
2018 CMA CGM Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
CMA CGM Jean Mermoz
CMA CGM Louis Bleriot
400 59 16 20,776 207,673 202.684 Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines , Philippines CMA CGM / FR
May 2017 OOCL Hong Kong 399.87 58.8 16 21,413 210,890 191,317 Samsung Heavy Industries , South Korea OOCL / HK
April 2017 Madrid Mærsk 399 58.6 16.5 20,586 214.286 210.019 Daewoo Shipbuilding , South Korea Mærsk-Line / DK
March 2017 MOL triumph 400 58.8 16 20,170 199,000 192.672 Samsung Heavy Industries, South Korea Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) / JP
May 2016 MSC Jade 398.45 59.07 16 19,437 194,308 200,148 Daewoo Shipbuilding, South Korea MSC / CH
May 2015 Barzan 400 58.6 16 18,800 195,636 199,744 Hyundai, South Korea UASC / AE
Dec 2014 MSC Oscar 395.4 59 16 19,224 192.237 199.273 Daewoo Shipbuilding, South Korea MSC / CH
Nov 2014 CSCL Globe 399.67 58.6 16 19,000 187,541 184,320 Hyundai Heavy Industries, Ulsan CSCL / CN
July 2013 Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller 399 59 15.5 18,270 194,849 194.153 Daewoo Shipbuilding Mærsk-Line / DK
Nov 2012 CMA CGM Marco Polo 396 53.6 16 16,020 175.343 187.625 Daewoo Shipbuilding CMA CGM / FR
Sept 2006 Emma Mærsk 397.7 / 398.9 ** 56.4 15.5 (11,000) 15,500 * / 17,816 ** 151,687 156.907 / 174.239 ** Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
July 2006 Xin Los Angeles 336.7 45.6 14.5 9580 107,800 111,889 Samsung, bunk CSCL / CN
Feb 2006 Cosco Guangzhou 350.56 42.8 14.5 9469 109,149 107.277 Hyundai Heavy Industries, Ulsan COSCO / CN
July 2005 MSC Pamela 336.7 45.6 15th 9178 107,849 110,592 Samsung, bunk MSC / CH
June 2005 Gudrun Mærsk 367.28 42.8 15.5 (7500) 9074 * 97.933 115,700 Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
March 2005 Colombo Express 335.07 42.87 14.6 8749 93,750 104,400 Hyundai Heavy Industries, Ulsan Hapag-Lloyd / DE
Dec 2004 P&O Nedlloyd Mondriaan 335 42.8 ?? 8450 94,724 97.612 IHI, Kure P&O Nedlloyd / GB-NL
July 2004 CSCL Asia 334 42.8 14.5 8498 90,496 105,000 Samsung, bunk CSCL / CN
May 2003 OOCL Shenzhen 322.97 42.8 13 8063 89.097 99,518 Samsung, bunk OOCL / HK
March 2003 Axel Mærsk 352.1 42.8 15th (6600) 8272 * 93,496 109,000 Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
Sept 1997 Sovereign Mærsk 346.98 42.8 14.5 (6600) 8160 * 91,500 104,886 Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
Jan 1996 Regina Mærsk 318.24 42.8 14.5 (6000) ~ 7000 * 81,488 90,456 Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
Aug 1995 OOCL California 276.02 40 12.2 4960 66,046 67,756 Mitsubishi, Nagasaki OOCL / HK
Dec 1994 NYK Altair 299.85 37.1 1?,? 4743 60.117 63.179 IHI, Kure NYK / JP
Feb 1991 Hanover Express 294 32.3 11.4 4639 53,783 67,680 Samsung, bunk Hapag-Lloyd / DE
Apr 1988 Fairy tale Mærsk 294.12 32.22 13.52 (3500) ~ 4500 * 52.191 60,639 Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
June 1984 American New York 290 32.3 ? 4400 57.075 58,870 Daewoo Shipbuilding, Okpo United States Lines / US
March 1984 Louis Mærsk 270 32.3 13 (3390) ~ 3700 * 43,332 53,325 Odense Mærsk-Line / DK
June 1981 Frankfurt Express 287.73 32.28 ? 3430 57,540 51,540 HDW, Kiel Hapag-Lloyd / DE
July 1972 Hamburg Express 287.7 32.27 ? 3010 58,088 48,453 Blohm & Voss, Hamburg Hapag-Lloyd / DE
March 1972 Liverpool Bay 289.55 32.26 10.79 2987 58,889 48,542 HDW, Hamburg OCL, then P&O / GB
Nov 1971 Kamakura Maru 261.2 32.2 ? 1838 50,159 35,405 Mitsubishi, Kobe NYK / JP
Sept 1970 Sydney Express 217 30.58 11.8 1665 27,407 GRT 33,330 Blohm & Voss, Hamburg HAPAG, Hapag-Lloyd / DE
Feb 1969 Encounter Bay 227.31 30.56 ? 1572 27,835 GRT 29,260 Germany OCL, then P&O / GB
Aug 1968 Hakone Maru 187 26th ? 752 16,240 GRT 14,745 Mitsubishi, Kobe NYK, Showa / JP
May 1964 Kooringa 126.3 19.1 7.6 483 *** 5825 GRT 6753 New South Wales State Dockyard Associated Steamships, McIlwraith, McEacharn & Co / AU
Nov 1955 Clifford J. Rogers 102.24 14.33 5.58 210 **** 2983 GRT 4000 Canadian Vickers, Montréal White Pass & Yukon Railway / CA


The largest container ships in the world at the time. In the case of ships of an identical series, only the first ship of the series is listed. Current record holder and the current maximum values ​​in bold

  • (*): The size of each container ship is given worldwide in TEU slot capacity . The shipping company Mærsk-Line was an exception for a long time and did not specify the maximum TEU slot capacity of the ship, but the maximum number of loaded TEUs of 14 tons each. This value, see number in brackets, is always lower than the maximum number of parking spaces. Mærsk now also specifies the size of its container ships in maximum TEU.
  • (**): after expansion through renovation in 2018
  • (***): The Kooringa was set up for the transport of 276 35-foot containers, which corresponds to around 483 TEU.
  • (****): The Clifford J. Rogers was set up for the transport of 600 7-foot containers, which corresponds to about 210 TEU.

Reefer container ships

Reefer container ship Transvaal in Hamburg

Container ships with more than 50 refrigerated containers were often referred to as refrigerated container ships. The refrigerated container market is growing rapidly and is in serious competition with refrigerated ships. In 1972 United Fruit (now Chiquita ) began shipping bananas in refrigerated containers. One of the reasons for this is that the ship can be unloaded more quickly in port. Portless ships are also used for this, in order to reach the containers directly with a crane. The first hatchless refrigerated container ships were built by HDW in 1999 and offered spaces for 990 TEU refrigerated containers and 33 TEU unrefrigerated containers. These ships are in use for Dole and serve the transport of fruit from Central America to the USA. Today Hamburg Süd is one of the largest shipping companies specializing in the transport of reefer containers to and from South America .

The ships of the “Monte” class with 5500 TEU and “Rio” class with 5905 TEU of Hamburg Süd are the container ships with the largest cooling capacity. They have 1365 connections for reefer containers, that is, spaces for around 2500 TEU reefer containers on and below deck.

Container ships without hatch covers

Open top container ship Rijnborg

Container ships without hatches have been built since 1990. These are ships whose holds have no hatch covers (or only on the first and second hold behind the breakwater), which reduces loading and unloading times and saves the weight of the hatch covers. A special bow against high waves and a powerful pumping system are necessary for this. The world's first ship of this type was the Bell Pioneer . The only large container ships of this type to date were operated by Nedlloyd, later Royal P&O Nedlloyd NV , now Mærsk with the five Panamax ships of the Ultimate Container Carrier type built in 1991/1992 , as well as the world's first post - Panamax open-top ships Nedlloyd Hong Kong and Nedlloyd Honshu , built in 1994.

For reasons of the strength of the ship ( torsion ), the ship's safety and economic efficiency, however, there has been a move away from building open-top ships with more than 1000 TEU. Because the hatch covers are missing, higher-strength steel has to be used and the girders have to be stiffened, which is too expensive from an economic point of view. In addition, a high freeboard is necessary to minimize the ingress of sea water. (See the feeder ships of the Sietas shipyard , which only have no covers in the middle hold, but instead have raised hatch rings .)


The container ships of the first and second generation had single screw propulsion ( steam turbine or diesel engine ). The third generation ships (built 1971–1981) were initially designed for 27–28  knots . This required two-screw drives (turbine or diesel) or even three-screw drives with three diesel engines. Another concept that was first implemented in this generation of container ships was the gas turbine ships of the Euroliner type. This drive, previously only known from military ships, quickly turned out to be uneconomical, especially after the oil crisis in the early 1970s. The first large panamax ships with single-screw propulsion were put into service from the end of 1980, when powerful diesel engines with 50,000 hp were available for the first time and the more expensive multi-screw propulsion systems could therefore be dispensed with. Since the end of the 1970s, due to the high price of crude oil and the abandonment of the very high speed of 28 knots, almost all turbine-powered container ships have been converted to diesel engine drives, as they consume significantly less fuel. There were also modifications to drive from 2 turbines / 2 propellers to 1 turbine / 1 propeller, such as the four Hapag-Lloyd ships of the "Hamburg Express" type. The usual service speed of almost all large container ships was then 24, at the end of the 2000s it was 25 knots.

The Mærsk Boston, which was delivered by Volkswerft Stralsund in May 2006, is the lead ship of seven very fast Panamax container ships, has a service speed of 29.2 knots with a twelve-cylinder Sulzer diesel engine and is the fastest container ship in the world.

The largest built-in diesel engines up to 2005 were twelve-cylinder two-stroke in-line engines of the types MAN-B & W 12K98ME / MC with 69.1 MW at 94-104 rpm or from Wärtsilä-Sulzer 12RT-flex96C Common Rail with 68.7 MW 100 / min.

The propulsion system is a problem in realizing the more than 12,000 TEU container ships. Up until the crisis in 2008, the shipowners only wanted container ships with a permanent speed of 25 knots (plus reserves) in order to be able to integrate the ships (especially if they are in liner service ) into existing routes. Instead of the previously widespread twelve-cylinder in-line diesel engine with 90,000 or 93,000 hp, a 14-cylinder diesel engine of the type Wärtsilä / Sulzer 14RT-flex96C with 108,908 hp was installed in the Emma Mærsk class . The propeller has a diameter of around 10.0 m and weighs around 130 tons in order to convert the greater engine power into propulsion at the same engine speed (94-104 / min).

In view of the high fuel costs and a shipping crisis that has persisted since mid-2008 , most ships are now traveling significantly more slowly than before the crisis began (“ slow steaming ”). The largest container ships of the Maersk Line with a capacity of 18,000 TEU, which were recently commissioned, were reduced to 23 knots and a two-screw drive was installed. In the case of ships already in service, it could even be profitable to convert the bulbous bow and replace it with a shape that is optimized for lower speed. The new noses are said to save 1–2% fuel. The ships of the UASC-A19 class , which are among the largest container ships in the world, are designed for an operating speed of just 12 to 18 knots.

Environmental aspects

Shore power supply based on LNG in Hamburg

Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping in the EU increased by 48 percent between 1990 and 2008, making up around 13 percent of total emissions from transport in the EU in 2015.

It has been criticized that there are driving bans for diesel cars in port cities, while ships in ports with ongoing diesel energy supply pollute the air . A solution is to be offered by a pilot project in which ships are supplied with an external LNG-based generator. The generator has the dimensions of a 40-foot container and can therefore easily be loaded onto a container ship. The problem today is the barely existing LNG infrastructure (comes from NL by truck) and the lack of standardization of the ship connection technology.


Large container ships with over 7000 TEU are built at the following shipyards:


Odense Staalskibsværft (Odense Steel Shipyard), Denmark (closed in 2012)

East asia

Container ships from German shipyards

In the initial phase of containerization from 1968 to 1977, a considerable number of large 1st to 3rd generation container ships were built by German shipyards, which were then leaders in this sector:

Post-Panamax container ship P&O Nedlloyd Barentsz (5468 TEU) built in 2000 from the Kvaerner Warnowwerft (2001)
Mærsk Boston , in front of Volkswerft Stralsund at the end of March 2006

The largest container ships currently built at a German shipyard were built at Volkswerft Stralsund , Stralsund , starting in autumn 2005 . The lead ship, the Mærsk Boston , was christened on March 24, 2006 and delivered in May 2006. They are of the type VWS4000 and measured 294.1 m in length. and 32.18 m wide with a capacity of 4250 TEU. The drive consists of a Sulzer 12 RTA 96C diesel with 93,400 hp. As a result, a service speed of 29.2 knots is achieved; they are the fastest container ships in the world.

Container ships of size 2500/2700 TEU (type CV 2500/2700) were built by HDW in Kiel, SSW in Bremerhaven, Nordseewerke in Emden, Blohm + Voss in Hamburg, Volkswerft in Stralsund, Aker Werften in Wismar and Rostock-Warnemünde.

For years , the JJ Sietas shipyard in Hamburg has been a leader in the design and construction of container ships up to 1200 TEU in size (feeder ships ) . From the beginning of 2006 this shipyard also built larger container ships, the first 1700 TEU ship was delivered with the Safmarine Mbashe . In the meantime, the construction of container ships there has been stopped. In November 2011 the company had to file for bankruptcy.

Shipping companies

The largest container ship shipping companies in the world

As of June 2019

rank Surname country Company headquarters Ships Capacity in TEU Container image
1. APM-Maersk DenmarkDenmark Denmark Copenhagen 718 4,152,693
Maersk shipping container.jpeg
2. MSC SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland Geneva 533 3,380,592
MSC container.jpeg
3. COSCOCS China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China Beijing 472 2,890,876
COSCO container.jpeg
4th CMA CGM FranceFrance France Marseille 521 2,685,848
CMA CGM shipping container.jpeg
5. Hapag-Lloyd GermanyGermany Germany Hamburg 236 1,702,384
Hapag-Lloyd shipping container.jpeg
6th Ocean Network Express SingaporeSingapore Singapore Singapore 215 1,543,266
Ocean Network Express container.jpg
7th Evergreen TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan Taipei 206 1,281,094
EVERGREEN container.jpeg
8th. Yang Ming TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan Keelung 97 647.474
Yang Ming container.jpeg
9. HMM Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea Seoul 70 423,842
Hyundai container.jpeg
10. PIL SingaporeSingapore Singapore Singapore 121 396,544
Container 【22G1】 PCIU 212799 (3) 【Container pictures taken in Japan】 .jpg
11. Room IsraelIsrael Israel Haifa 61 293,707
Zim container.jpeg
12. Wan Hai Lines TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan Taipei 93 264,453
Container WAN HAI 01.jpg
13. KMTC Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea Seoul 69 156.065
14th IRISL IranIran Iran Tehran 50 154,415
Container 【42G1】 IRSU 428098 (2) --- No, 1 【Pictures taken in Japan】 .jpg
15th Antong Holdings China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China Quanzhou 123 148.279
16. Zhonggu Logistics China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China Shanghai 97 137,513
17th X-Press Feeders Group SingaporeSingapore Singapore Singapore 79 120,858
18th Shandong Shipping Corporation China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China Qingdao 80 112,858
Container 【22G1】 SITU 290848 (4) --- No, 1 【Pictures taken in Japan】 .jpg
19th SM Line Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea Seoul 18th 75,356
20th TS Lines TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan Taipei 35 74,881

The 20 largest container shipping companies control around 89% of the market.

The German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd AG , which was still the largest container shipping company in the world from 1976 to 1983, has not been among the “Top 10” in the ranking for many years. In August 2005 the takeover of CP Ships by Hapag-Lloyd was announced. This required a capital increase of one billion euros. Hapag-Lloyd thus moved up to 6th place among the major container shipping companies.

On May 11, 2005 it was officially announced that Mærsk-Sealand wanted to take over P&O Nedlloyd for 2.96 billion US dollars (equivalent to 2.3 billion euros) . The P&O Nedlloyd share was valued at US $ 41 on May 10, Mærsk-Sealand offered shareholders US $ 57 per share in a takeover offer scheduled until August 5, 2005. The takeover was completed in mid-August 2005. P&O Nedlloyd ceased to exist in February 2006. It has been fully integrated into the “Mærsk Line”. With the takeover, the market leader Mærsk increased its market share from 12 to 18 percent of world container traffic.

Largest container ship fleets by country

According to the nationality of the owners, the following countries had container ship fleets with more than 1000 GT per ship (number of ships / capacity in a thousand standard containers)

As of December 31, 2009

Largest container ship fleets
country Ships in a thousand TEU in million tdw TEU share
1. GermanyGermany Germany 1742 ships 4514 58.9 35.2%
2. JapanJapan Japan 317 ships 1139 14.5 8.9%
3. DenmarkDenmark Denmark 243 ships 1075 15.0 8.4%
4th China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 313 ships 696 9.4 5.4%
5. TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 197 ships 633 8.0 4.9%
6th GreeceGreece Greece 188 ships 612 8.2 4.8%
7th SingaporeSingapore Singapore 170 ships 400 5.4 3.1%
8th. FranceFrance France 86 ships 382 4.7 3.0%
9. Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 127 ships 329 4.4 2.6%
10. Hong KongHong Kong Hong Kong 57 ships 246 3.0 1.9%
Others 1229 ships 2792 37.5 21.8%

The UNCTAD report Review of Maritime Transport 2012 (page 42 ff.) Contains the information that proves the proportion of ships in German hands. A distinction must be made between ship owners (= owners) and ship operators (shipping companies). So is z. B. the Maersk shipping company (as of 2009) owns about half of the fleet it operates; she chartered the other half. The large proportion of ships in German hands can be explained by the tax concessions for ship investments (see also the shipping crisis since 2008 ). In 2014, Germany had around 26 percent of the world's container shipping capacities (around 4.8 million TEU) in the container shipping sector.

Liner and container shipping companies: mergers and acquisitions

  • September 1, 1970: Hapag and NDL merged retroactively to January 1, 1970 to form Hapag-Lloyd AG, Hamburg / Bremen
  • 1971: The four largest Dutch shipping companies merge to form Royal Nedlloyd
  • January 1, 1987: P&O took over Overseas Container Limited completely
  • 1988: Sealand Corp. took over the bankrupt United States Lines
  • 1988: Hanjin Container Lines and Korea Shipping Corp. merged to form Hanjin Shipping
  • 1993: Ben Line / Det Østasiatiske Kompagni were taken over by Mærsk Line
  • 1994: Senator Lines , Bremen and DSR, Rostock merged
  • 1995: CP Ships took over CAST, London
  • 1996: Safmarine took over CMBT, Antwerp
  • 1996: CMA took over CGM, now CMA CGM
  • December 1996: Nedlloyd and P&O Container Line merged to form P&O Nedlloyd
  • 1997: CP Ships took over Lykes Lines, Boston and Contship Containerlines , London
  • 1997: Hanjin Shipping took over DSR-Senator Line, Bremen
  • 1998: Neptune Orient Lines took over the American President Lines
  • 1998: CP Ships took over Australia-New Zealand Direct Lines, Wellington
  • 1998: CMA-CGM took over the Australian National Line
  • 1998: Evergreen Marine took over Lloyd Triestino
  • 1998: P&O Nedlloyd took over the Blue Star Line
  • 1999: Safmarine Container Line was taken over by Mærsk Line
  • November 1999: Sea-Land Corp. was taken over by Mærsk Line
  • 2000: CP Ships took over TMM, Mexico
  • 2000: P & O Nedlloyd took over Farrell Lines , USA
  • 2002: CP Ships took over Italia SAN, Genoa
  • August 2005: P&O Nedlloyd was taken over by Mærsk Line
  • December 2005: Farrell Lines was taken over by Mærsk Line
  • December 15, 2005: CP Ships, Canada were taken over by Hapag-Lloyd
  • January 5, 2006: CMA-CGM acquired Delmas
  • December 1, 2007: Hamburg Süd took over the liner services of Costa Container Lines SpA (CCL)
  • April 2014: The container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd and the Chilean competitor CSAV merged
  • 2016: Merger of Hapag-Lloyd with the Arab competitor United Arab Shipping Company
  • 2016: Merger of COSCO and China Shipping to form COSCOS
  • December 2017: Maersk took over Hamburg Süd
  • April 2018: The Japanese shipping companies MOL , K-Line and NYK merged to form Ocean Network Express (ONE)


The container feeder ship of Asia Pacific Marine Container Lines of Canada on the Outer Elbe with a course for Hamburg (2007)

In 1969, on the route Europe – Australia / New Zealand, the liner service was switched to container traffic with second-generation ships ( ANZECS service). It was established by Hapag-Lloyd , Germany, Overseas Containers Limited (OCL), Great Britain (an amalgamation of five major British liner shipping companies), Associated Container Transportation (ACT), Great Britain, Nedlloyd , Netherlands, the Australian National Line and New Zealand Shipping Company founded.

The most important and heaviest shipping connection is the Europe-Far East route. In 1968 the major liner shipping companies decided to switch to container traffic.

The first major alliance existed here from 1971, the TRIO service (founded by shipping companies from three countries). The conversion to container traffic meant such a large investment volume at the time that no shipping company could or would finance it alone. The largest and fastest container ships of the 3rd generation at the time were put into service here between November 1971 and July 1973. The TRIO service was provided by the shipping companies NYK Line / Japan (3, from 1976 4 ships), Mitsui OSK Lines / Japan (2, from 1977 3 ships), Hapag-Lloyd / Germany (4, from 1981 5 ships), Overseas Container Line (OCL) / Great Britain (5, from 1989 7 ships; was later taken over by P&O) and Ben Line-Ellerman / Great Britain (3 ships). The TRIO service was dissolved at the beginning of 1991, although Hapag-Lloyd AG and NYK Line continue to work with other shipping companies to this day.

The second group was from 1972 the Scandutch Service of the shipping companies Wilh. Wilhelmsen / Norway, Det Østasiatiske Kompagni (EAC) / Denmark, Broström / Sweden and Nedlloyd / Netherlands. CGM / France joined in 1973 and Malaysian Intern. Shipping Co. (MISC) 1977. This alliance was also ended in 1991.

The third alliance was founded in 1975 with the ACE service (Asian Container Europe) of the shipping companies K-Line / Japan, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) / Hong Kong, Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) / Singapore and Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) / Belgium.

From 1991 to 1996 there was an alliance between Mærsk Line and P&O. From 1996 on, market leader Mærsk Line worked with the American Sea Land Corp. globally together. The addition was so cheap that Mærsk took over almost all of the US shipping company in 1999.

In 1991 the three Scandinavian shipping companies as well as Ben Line and Ellermann started the BEN-EAC service. The BEN-EAC service was completely taken over by Mærsk-Line in 1993.

From 1996 to 2001 there was the Global Alliance of the shipping companies Hapag-Lloyd AG , NYK Line , NOL and P&O. Royal Nedlloyd joined after the merger with P&O in 1997.

In 1977 container traffic began on the Europe – South Africa route , known as the SAECS service, founded by the shipping companies Deutsche Afrika Linien (Hamburg), Compagnie Maritime Belge , Royal Nedlloyd , Overseas Container Line (later P&O) and Safmarine , South Africa. Nine modern 2400 TEU two-screw container ships were used here. This service is still served today by Mærsk Line , Safmarine, CGM (only until the end of the 1990s), and Deutsche Afrika Linie, Mitsui-OSK Lines has been added since February 2006. Modern 4500-5000 TEU ships (Sling 1) and 1,800 TEU ships (Sling 2) are now in use.

Current alliances

Shipping company alliances must be recognized by the American Federal Maritime Commission , and there is also the Singapore Competition Authority.

The three largest alliances were in mid-2017:

The numbers in brackets indicate the importance of the respective shipping company in the global ranking.


In 2008 (a boom period ended in this year and a shipping crisis of several years began), a container ship was scrapped after an average of 27 years. In 2015, a container ship was scrapped after an average of 22 years.


  • Thomas Pawlik, Heinrich Hecht : Container shipping . Heel-Verlag 2007, ISBN 978-3-89880-873-6 .
  • Hans Jürgen Witthöft: Containers - The mega-carriers are coming . 2nd Edition. Köhlers Verlagsanstalt, Herford 2004, ISBN 3-7822-0882-X .
  • For the time being, last container ships from German shipyards . In: Hansa , issue 7/2011, Schiffahrts-Verlag Hansa, Hamburg 2011, ISSN  0017-7504 , pp. 24-27.
  • Worldwide fleet has grown to over 5100 container ships . In: Daily port report of May 29, 2013, p. 1.
  • Ralf Witthohn: Capacity is approaching 20,000 TEU . In: Schiff & Hafen , issue 10/2013, DVV Media Group, Hamburg 2013, ISSN  0938-1643 , pp. 28–33.
  • Ulrich Malchow: The curse of the »Economics of Scale« . In: Hansa , Issue 8/2015, Schiffahrts-Verlag Hansa, Hamburg 2015, ISSN  0017-7504 , pp. 30–33.
  • Michael Tasto: Ongoing borderline experiences. After the order boom in 2015, reorders imploded in 2016. In: Hansa , issue 2/2017, p. 30.


  • Container ships. Freighter in XXL format ( online ), documentary film, Germany, 2006, 42 min., Script and director: Rob Kerr, production: Southern Star Singapore PTE Ltd., National Geographic Channel , German first broadcast: June 27, 2006 on ZDF , summary ( from phoenix .
    The freighter of the Samsung shipyard in South Korea, named OOCL Atlanta on February 25, 2005 , was built by more than 8,000 workers in nine months for the Orient Overseas Container Line . The container ship is 323 meters long and 40 meters wide and cost 150 million dollars.
  • Dirty Shipping ( online ), documentary, Germany, 2014, 29 min., Hilde Buder-Monath and Halim Hosny (Link dead, March 19, 2019), ZDF , summary (Link dead, March 19, 2019) by ZDFzoom .

Web links

Commons : Container Ships  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Containerschiff  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Nasrin Khaniha, Zahra Pishgahi Fard: Globalization and Important Straits . In: The Social Sciences , Volume 4, Issue 3, 2009, pp. 304-312 (PDF, 761 kB)
  2. Alphaliner TOP 100 [1] accessed on February 20, 2019
  3. World Maritime News of January 15, 2019, Drewry: 2019 Another Solid Year for Container Market [2]
  4. Peter Sand: Container Shipping: It is obviously very difficult to hold down fleet growth to improve the market , BIMCO, September 3, 2018, accessed on February 20, 2019.
  5. Freightwaves, February 21, 2019, Michael Angell: Port Report: Maersk results gain from US container import binge and higher detention fees [3], accessed February 20, 2019
  6. Hapag-Lloyd CEO Dismisses Overcapacity Fears , World Maritime News, February 22, 2018.
  7. James Baker: Feedership shortage forecast for 2020 , Lloyd's List, April 30, 2018.
  8. ^ Fairplay International Shipping Journal
  9. History , Aug. Bolten Wm. Miller's successor.
  10. Bruno Bock: Ships of the year 1970/71 in: Yearbook des Schiffahrtswesens , Vol. 10, Hestra-Verlag, Darmstadt 1971, p. 171.
  11. Bruno Bock: Ships of the Year 1971/72 . In: Jahrbuch des Schiffahrtswesens , Vol. 11, Hestra-Verlag, Darmstadt 1972.
  12. ^ Christoph Papsch: Thick pot . In: Deutsche Seeschifffahrt , Issue 7–8 / 2011, pp. 22–33, Verband Deutscher Reeder eV, Hamburg 2011, ISSN  0948-9002
  13. see also article in the English Wikipedia
  14. TEU capacity analysis for the Emma Mærsk (PDF) ( Memento of the original from July 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. ^ Mike Wackett: Maersk upgrades E-class containerships to bolster capacity. The Loadstar, August 4, 2016, accessed January 19, 2017 .
  16. Eckhard-Herbert Arndt: TEU upgrade for "Emma Maersk" and Co. Daily port report , April 4, 2018.
  17. Daily port report , December 19, 2008, p. 3
  18. ML / KN: Maersk Line's "Triple-E" class mega-containerships . In: Hansa , issue 4/2011, pp. 16-19
  19. Maersk orders ten record freighters in South Korea .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: DVZ of February 21, 2011, registration required@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  20. Maersk to take massive size leap . In: Tradewinds , accessed on January 24, 2011, registration required, beginning of article .
  21. William Kremer: How much bigger can container ships get? BBC World Service February 19, 2013
  22. ( Memento of the original from September 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. MOL orders six 20,000 TEU ships., March 3, 2015, accessed on March 8, 2015 .
  24. XXL cargo ships are too big · Are container giants soon to be scrapped?
  25. 22,000 TEU freighters are a realistic size .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. DVZ Sea Freight, December 2, 2014@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  26. World's largest boxship featuring 24 rows across is delivered -. In: Splash 247. July 3, 2019, accessed August 19, 2019 (American English).
  27. The world's largest container ship takes off . In: Hansa , issue 6/2017, p. 8
  28. "MOL Triumph" handed over . In: Daily port report of March 30, 2017, p. 13
  29. Jonathan Wichmann: The nose job: Why 10 of our ships are getting a new bulbous bow ( Memento of July 25, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), Maersk Line, December 21, 2012.
  30. Container Ship Nose Jobs - Maersk Retrofits Bulbous Bows for Slow Steaming , The Old Salt Blog, March 17, 2013.
  31. UASC A14 and A18 Class Container Vessels just ordered ( Memento from June 19, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), Technolog, August 30, 2013
  32. Frank Hütten Schifffahrt: EU countries also want to know the freight volume when measuring CO2 , DVZ, October 25, 2019.
  33. Alternative energy supply in the Port of Hamburg. Retrieved August 26, 2018 .
  34. a b Alphaliner - TOP 100 (English)
  35. Hansa , April 2011, p. 49
  36. Review of Maritime Transport , United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (PDF, 2.9 MB)
  37. According to the annual report on page 31 275 ships with a capacity of around 1.6 million TEU are owned and 295 ships with a capacity of around 1 million TEU have been chartered.
  38. Maritime Economy ( Memento of January 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), Section Merchant Fleet , Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
  39. Wolfhart Fabarius: Alliances dominate the market · Industry is concentrated · Three alliances of the world's largest container shipping companies started · Reduce dependency on shipping areas . In: Daily port report from May 9, 2017, special supplement mariLOG, pp. 1 + 3
  40. ^ Even more ships scrapped , THB - Deutsche Schiffahrts-Zeitung, February 21, 2016.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 26, 2005 .