Largest Container Ship Race

by | Oct 9, 2017

Owning the world’s largest container ship has been a sought after accolade for many years, and the universally accepted measure of this is the maximum number of TEU’s (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) that the vessel can carry.

The past 12 months have seen the prize change hands on a number of occasions, as shipping lines take receipt of new vessels following large industry changes, which have included a number of mergers and new alliances.

China Shipping, MSC, MOL and Maersk have all been recent holders of the ‘title’, as the magic number moved up in increments of a few hundred – from 19,100, to 19,224, to 20,170 and then 20,568 TEU.

The current target for others to aspire to is 21,413, which was set this summer when OOCL launched the ‘OOCL Hong Kong’ and received the current Guinness world record title. OOCL have subsequently added two more vessels capable of carrying the same number and are reportedly launching another three soon.

To put 21,413 containers into perspective – if you lined that many containers up end to end, starting from the London Orbital (M25), you would lay the last one just short of Birmingham. They could also be stacked into almost 200 piles that are equal in height to ‘The Shard’, the UK’s tallest building – although we wouldn’t recommend trying either of these.

The modern container fleet is certainly a long way down the line from the first container ship, which set sail from New York to Houston in 1956, carrying 58 containers. Today’s record breaking vessels have also quadrupled in size since those that led the way at the turn of the century, as the below graphic shows.


This demonstrates that the past five years have seen the sharpest rise in the curve and continuing this rate would see 40,000 TEU container ships calling at worldwide ports in the next five years.

However, these behemoth container ships often take two to three years to build. Considering this, and the recent unpredictable nature of the Asian market, it is extremely unlikely that ship owners are preparing to order ships of that size any time soon.

The ongoing move towards mass volume means the services of technologically advanced 21st century carriers, like UniOcean Lines, are becoming increasingly required to integrate with global supply chains. UniOcean combine the best of carrier and local services, and are supported by the most sophisticated and intelligent supply chain management platform available – One World.

At UniOcean, we continue to focus on supply chain led innovations and value added services. Meanwhile, the race for TEU dominance continues amongst ship owners, which may well provide us with another world record before the end of the year – so watch this space.



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