Container ship

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Container ship "Rita" being loaded at Copenhagen; note crew standing on deck, and stacks of containers on shore.
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Container ship "Rita" being loaded at Copenhagen; note crew standing on deck, and stacks of containers on shore.

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Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size containers, in a technique called containerization. However, cargo that is too big to carry in containers can be handled using so-called flat racks, open top containers and platforms.

They are designed in such a manner that no space is wasted. Their capacity is measured in TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). This is the number of 20 ft containers that it can carry. The majority of containers used today are 40 ft in length. Above a certain size, container ships do not carry their own loading gear. Hence loading and unloading can only be done at ports with the necessary cranes. However, smaller ships with capacities up to 2 900 TEUs are often equipped with their own cranes.

Informally known as "box boats," they carry the majority of the world's dry cargo. There are large main line vessels that ply the deep sea routes, then many small "feeder" ships that supply the large ships at centralized hub ports. Most container ships are propelled by diesel engines, and have crews of between 20 and 40 people. They generally have a large accommodation block at the stern, directly above the engine room. Container ships now carry up to 8,000 containers on a voyage.

The first container ships were converted tankers, built up from surplus tanker Liberty ships after World War II. Container ships are by now, all purpose-built and, as a class, they are the biggest cargo ships on the oceans, right after crude oil carriers, or tankers.

Shipyards

Large container ships (over 7000 TEU) have been built in the following shipyards:


The biggest ships (listed by TEU) in the world are:

Built Name Length o.a. Beam TEU BRT Owners
2005 Colombo Express 335.07 m 42.87 m 8700 93750 Hapag-Lloyd/Germany
2004 CSCL Europe 334.00 m 42.80 m 8498 99500 China Shipping Container Line
2003 OOCL Shenzhen 322.97 m 42.80 m 8063 89097 OOCL/Hongkong
2003 Axel Maersk 352.10 m 42.80 m 7226 (8300) 93496 Maersk Sealand/Denmark
1997 Sovereign Maersk 346.98 m 42.80 m 6600 (8000) 91500 Maersk Line/Denmark
1996 Regina Maersk 318.24 m 42.80 m 6000 (7000) 80500 Maersk Line/Denmark
1995 OOCL Hongkong 276.02 m 40.00 m 5344 66046 OOCL/Hongkong
1991 Hannover Express 294.00 m 32.30 m 4639 53783 Hapag-Lloyd/Germany
1988 Marchen Maersk 294.12 m 32.22 m 4300 53600 Maersk Line/Denmark
1984 Louis Maersk 270.00 m 32.30 m 3390 (3700) 53300 Maersk Line/Denmark
1981 Frankfurt Express 287.73 m 32.28 m 3430 57540 Hapag-Lloyd/Germany
1972 Hamburg Express 287.70 m 32.20 m 3010 58088 Hapag-Lloyd/Germany
1972 Tokyo Bay 289.32 m 32.26 m 2961 58889 OCL then P&O/GB
1971 Kamakura Maru 290.00 m 32.20 m 2500 59000 NYK/Japan
1970 Sydney Express 217.00 m 30.58 m 1665 27407 Hapag-Lloyd/Germany
1969 Encounter Bay 227.31 m 30.56 m 1572 28800 OCL then P&O/GB

Note

  • The size of a container ship is defined throughout the world in terms of TEU capacity. The exception is the Maersk Sealand line. It does not quote the TEU capacity, but the maximum load capacity in terms of filled TEUs each with a 14 tonne load. This value is always less than the raw TEU capacity. These values are noted in the table above.


Missing image
CMA_CGM_Balzac.jpg
Container ship "CMA CGM Balzac" in the port of Zeebrugge Belgium.

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