Questioning utility of mega ships - more trouble than they're worth?

12th June 2019

THE drive to reduce slot costs by building ships of 18,000 TEU and above has produced more costs than savings, and will continue to do so as ships get bigger and become more numerous, reports London's Loadstar.

"It's a step too far and leads to an imbalance where you have too few weekly services and too many congestion issues at ports and hinterlands," said Lars Jensen, chief executive of SeaIntelligence Consulting.

"However, the reality is there's going to be about 150 of them, so of course carriers will use them."

Mr Jensen said that if the carriers had stopped at the 14,000 - 15,000-TEU range there would be more efficient networks and more frequent services with higher reliability.

"At that size these ships become very versatile, they can be used on all the deepsea trades, they can be used in the Panama Canal and, increasingly, at a lot of secondary ports," he said.

Said Drewry's director of ports Neil Davidson: "The world economy is maturing and slowing, and the era of globalisation has run its course. We're seeing a very significant change to more regionalisation, which is going to affect volumes on the long-haul routes, but also provide opportunities on shorter, intra-regional ones too."

Container port growth was largely driven by throughput in China over the past 10 years, Mr Davidson said, but as the Chinese economy matures, so too has its port volumes, leaving the rising "ASEAN tigers" to pick up the slack. He says the biggest port opportunities now lie in Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

"This is where the intra-region growth side of the story plays in - it's not just growing volumes for intercontinental, but ASEAN is playing a bigger part in the regionalisation and the huge intra-Asia trade," said Mr Davidson.