Container ships


In the last issues of the magazine you already got to know a lot of interesting information about container terminals and the freight traffic on rails. However, the containers often cover thousands of kilometres on sea routes until they arrive at a port in your vicinity. On container ships.


ONCE UPON A TIME... North America. The first container ship of the world was built and commissioned in 1955. Initially, the "Clifford J. Rogers" travelled between the Canadian city of Vancouver and the small town of Skagway in the US American state of Alaska. At that time, however, the containers being used had nothing to do with modern ISO containers. The crates were 2.44 metres long and 2.14 metres high. Depending on the route, the containers were loaded with general cargo or raw materials like zinc. Malcom P. McLean is said to have invented the ISO container as in 1956 he used large containers for trucks and ships for the first time. He founded the shipping company "Sea-Land Corporation" and had old oil tankers modify to that containers could be loaded on the deck. The modified "Ideal X" had its first journey in 1956 carrying 58 containers from Newark to Houston.




There are a lot of types of containers. Mostly ISO containers with a length of 20 feet (approx. 6 metres) or 40 feet (approx. 12 metres) are used for transporting goods. This leads to the abbreviations "TEU" and "FEU" used as units for the loading. The "Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit" stands for a twenty-foot ISO container, whereas the "Forty-foot Equivalent Unit" stands for a forty-foot ISO container. These units play an important role for indicating the loading capacity of container ships.






In the context of globalization and the brisk world trade, freight transportation by container ships increased more and more in the past years. In the first six months of 2016 about 149 million tons of goods were handled in German seaports alone. These enormous quantities require enormous container ships: the "Ultra Large Container Ships" - in short "ULCS". While the ships at the beginning of container shipping were able to transport approx. 300 TEU, the recent "ULCS can transport up to 20,000 TEU. They are up to 400 metres long, 59 metres wide and have a draught of 16 metres. The design of the ships of the ULCS series is always very similar. The deckhouse is located approximately at the and of the end of front third of the ship. This improves the sight and a higher deck loading in the front area. The chimney and the machinery lie in the posterior third.


As from 2017, the largest container ships of the world are to be launched. The Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is planning their liner service between Europe and Asia with the six ships of the MOL 20,000 TEU series. These ships will be able to transport more than 20,000 TEU.