At one point or another, you have probably heard that the “global economy is becoming increasingly interconnected” or some similar such phrase. While accurate, these statements aren’t particularly informative: how exactly are various markets across the world intertwined with one another? One obvious way is that products made in one country are distributed across the world, and these products are often distributed by enormous container ships. A new class of such gigantic container ships – indeed, the largest container ships in the world – was recently commissioned by Maersk, the Danish business conglomerate, and the first vessels (out of a planned 20) have recently gone into operation. The container ships belonging to the “Maersk Triple E class” are built by Daewoo Shipbuilding, a South Korean company that is the second largest shipbuilder in the world. (Daewoo also had an automobile division, which is now owned by GM.) Below is some basic information about the Maersk Triple E class and how the ships in this group compare to other enormous vessels.
We said above that the ships in the Maersk Triple E class are the largest container ships in the world. This is true, but it actually understates the case because they are, at least at the moment, the largest ships in the world, container or otherwise. A few years ago, this wouldn’t have been true, as the Seawise Giant, an oil tanker that ranks as the biggest ship of all time, was still in operation. Indeed, several oil tankers had larger dimensions than the ships in the Triple E class, but none of them are in use any longer. So, with a length 400 meters (1,312 feet) and a width of 59 meters (194 feet), the Triple E ships own the title of “world’s largest ship.” Given that it is presumably easier to operate a shipping vessel than it is to manage a floating city filled with people, it might come as a surprise that the Triple E ships are actually not much larger than the world’s largest cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas. The ships are close to the same height, and the Allure is actually slightly wider, but the Triple E ships are over 30 meters (100 feet) longer.
So, that is how big the ships are, but how will they be used? Obviously, they will be used for shipping, and their size has both advantages and disadvantages (or if not disadvantages, at least limitations). The major advantage is that these Triple E ships can, of course, carry an enormous amount of stuff – 9,000 shipping containers, to be precise. As one might expect, some initial reports about the ships were keen to point out just how much this in terms of familiar objects: evidently, 9,000 containers can transport well over a 100 million pairs of shoes or about 36,000 cars. Since more can be shipped in a single voyage, this cuts down on a business’ distribution costs, and it is also good for the environment because less fuel is required per shipped item. The downside of the ships’ size is that they cannot fit in any port in the Americas (a rather large market), nor can they fit through the Panama Canal. However, it can go through the Suez Canal, which means the ships will primarily sail between Asia and Europe.
While not the largest ships ever to exist, the vessels of the Maersk Triple E class are huge. They can carry a ludicrous shipment of consumer goods, although this same capacity prevents them from docking in the Americas. Given that only a fraction of the Triple E vessels have been put in operation, Maersk’s ship will probably reshape the container shipping industry over the next several years.