The technical feasibility studies for 24,000 ships have been established, finding that the at-sea costs were 23.1% lower for a 24,000 teu vessel compared to a 12,500 teu boxship, while they were 17.4% less when compared to a 16,000 teu craft, Andrew Penfold, project director, Ocean Shipping Consultants (OSC), a unit of Royal HaskoningDHV, told the TOC Europe conference.
“We haven’t yet reached the limit of size of ships we’ll be dealing with. There is a worthwhile additional saving in shifting up to 24,000 teu vessels,” he said. He also believes the impact of cascading on secondary trades continues to be a major factor in the search for global trading efficiency.
Penfold said work to build the massive vessels would start at Korean yards in around 2016. They would be 430 m x 62 m in size, although draught would remain 16 m. “Despite the wounds of overcapacity, further ordering off even larger vessels seems inevitable,” he said. “A depth of 17.5 m should be future-proof. Depth alongside is critical to future-proof terminals.”
Greater transhipment activity would result from the increased hub and spoke operations caused by development of the new ships, but Penfold said that 24,000 teu vessels would not necessarily mean fewer ports of call. “People have been saying this for years, but it actually hasn’t happened. But we will see some ports being dropped. Transhipment is intensifying in key locations.”
He said a 35-40% incidence of transhipment was needed to drive development of ports of sufficient size, but that this would mean pressures on terminal operators increasing. This would also mean that new alliances would be necessary.
“Individual lines lack the intensity to utilise [port facilities] efficiently. The strongest growth will take place at hub ports with maximized transhipment. Alliances are marriages of convenience. Terminals which do not lift productivity will see market share decline,” he said.
OSC has conducted a major research project into economies of scale offered by 24,000 teu vessels in conjunction with classification society Lloyd’s Register, and two unnamed shipping lines.