How big are the largest ocean container ships in the world?

Ever Alot, the largest container ship ever built, was launched in June by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine.

The massive vessel has a capacity of 24,004 twenty-foot equivalent units, which is slightly less than the Ever Ace, which was launched in July 2021 and previously held the world record with 23,992 TEUs.

The Ever Alot has a width of 203 feet and a length of more than 1,300 feet. The Ever Alot would be taller than the Empire State Building in New York City if it were stacked vertically.

The Ever Alot was the first vessel to break the 24,000-TEU barrier when it made its inaugural voyage from Shanghai, where it was built, to the Port of Rotterdam in August.

The Ever Ace and the Ever Alot belong to a class of ships called very large container ships (VLCs) or ultra large container vessels (ULCVs). These ships are so big that they barely fit through the Panama Canal’s locks.

According to Taiwan News, Samsung Heavy Industries, based in South Korea, built the Ever Ace for about $150 million. When the Ever Alot was ordered in 2019, China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding produced it for a reported $145 million.
Between Europe and the Far East, there are services provided by the Ever Alot and Ever Ace. Carriers may be able to offer shippers rates that are more competitive if they use the larger ships to take advantage of economies of scale and reduce costs associated with container slots.

The average capacity of a container ship has increased to around 4,500 TEUs from less than 3,000 TEUs in 2012. According to a BBC report, more than 50 ships with a capacity of 21,000 TEUs or more have been constructed over the past decade.

The financial viability of such massive ships has been questioned by some maritime experts.

According to FreightWaves, the American Economic Liberties Project’s director of research, Matt Stoller, these extremely large container ships necessitate larger facilities and additional equipment in order to be handled. As a result, ports will have to pay for more dredging, brand-new warehouses, additional cranes and personnel, and additional road infrastructure.

The majority of U.S. ports are too small to accommodate ultra-large container ships, which serve primarily Europe and Asia.

Stoller stated, “We have a lot of ports in [the United States], but we don’t have enough ocean carrier firms.” The vessels used by ocean carriers are too big for most ports.

However, in recent years, a few large container ships have visited American ports.

The 18,000-TEU CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin made a stop at the Port of Los Angeles in 2015, making it the largest container ship to ever make a stop at a port in North America. In 2020, when the 19,200-TEU MSC Anna made a port call at the Port of Oakland in California, it broke that record.

The CMA CGM Marco Polo, a 16,022-TEU vessel that made calls at the ports of New York, New Jersey, Savannah, and Charleston in 2021, was the largest container ship to sail to the East Coast of the United States.

In 2021, the CMA CGM Marco Polo became the largest container ship to ever call on the U.S. East Coast. (Photo courtesy of Port of New York and New Jersey)

When the Ever Alot first entered service in August, it was the largest container ship currently in use; however, it’s possible that larger ships have already surpassed it.

The MSC Loreto and MSC Irina, two new ships built by the China-based Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group for the world’s largest shipping line Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), were launched on October 29.

Yangzijiang stated that each vessel will have a container capacity of 24,636 TEU, making them the largest container ships in the world, despite the fact that MSC has not yet put these ships into service.

In January, MSC overtook Maersk as the largest ocean carrier in the world. MSC continues to aggressively expand its fleet despite a general slowdown in ocean container traffic over the past year.

FreightWaves looked at Alphaliner data and found that MSC has a newbuild order book of 1,482,178 TEUs, which includes charter ships ordered through intermediaries. 33.4% of MSC’s on-the-water fleet is now available for order.


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