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Infrastructure costs need to be considered in building 24,000 teu boxships

Infrastructure costs need to be considered in building 24,000 teu boxships
Infrastructure constraints could put the brakes on further growth in ultra large containership sizes even if they are technically possible according to classification society DNV GL.

Jost Bergmann, DNV GL business director for containerships, said that average size of boxships had been increasing dramatically by around 5.5% a year. Of the current orderbook more than 40% of the vessels are in excess of 13,000 teu capacity.

Bergmann told a seminar in Singapore on Tuesday that so far this year roughly 140 newbuildings have been ordered with 1.1m teu of capacity.

“We believe we see some moderate newbuilding activity in the next few years maybe around 200 vessels a year, and we also believe there will be a focus on the larger, more energy efficient vessels,” he said.

While the largest vessels currently on order go up to 19,000 teu in capacity as lines seek lower slot costs, infrastructure costs and constraints could be starting to outweigh the benefits of even bigger boxships.

“We believe its worth looking at the total picture of where ship size will go in the future. We should also have a look at the infrastructure costs which are developing at an opposite way to slot cost,” Bergmann explained.

Moving up to the possible 24,000 teu capacity vessel would need larger cranes, reinforced berths, bigger turning basins, deeper water and investment in landside infrastructure such as road and rail connections.

Port congestion being seen this year in Europe and now Asia was a possible sign of infrastructure problems already starting to appear.

However, according to DNV GL the 24,000 teu ship is technically feasible, although it would have some challenges. “If liner companies insist on getting 24,000 teu ships it is possible from a naval architecture point of view,” he said.

A 24,000 teu ship would be 430 m long compared to 400 m for a 19,000 teu ship and have a beam of 64 m compared to 59 m.

“If the vessels are longer then in the upper parts of the ship steel plates of 100 – 110 mm may have to be used to ensure it is strong enough, which poses challenges not just for the shipyards but also the steel mills,” Bergmann explained.

The size of container tiers in the cargo hold would also be increased from 11 to 12, which would result in weight restrictions on the cargo carried as only 11 containers can be stacked on top of each other without crushing the boxes at the bottom.

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