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A Great Year for Many Container Ports

Despite the well-documented upheavals and resultant global economic challenges of 2016, it turned out to be a record-breaking year for a whole host of international container ports.

Oakland Enjoys Record Year

The Port of Oakland is a perfect case in point, defying economic trends and breaking its 2013 record high by handling the equivalent of 1.83 million, 20-foot shipping containers over the past 12-months. This represents an impressive 7.6% increase over 2015, despite the operators reducing the number of marine terminals from five to four. This streamlining and further efficiency measures have led to much faster turnaround times, with most ships spending less than 24 hours in port.

Global Trade Predicted to Increase

A recent report by Market Research Hub predicted that the international container fleet market should grow by over 3% during the period 2017 to 2021. This expansion will be driven by the significant progress already made in fleet management techniques, leading to improvements in operational efficiency; including risk reduction, cost control and accurate container tracking. Combine these with the increased manufacturing output of producers like Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand, and you have a potentially bright future for the shipping container industry.

Reefers Leading the Charge

Refrigerated shipping containers or ‘reefers’ have revolutionised the global trade for perishable goods, tapping vast, new markets and delivering an unprecedented range of products to consumers. In the USA, it’s now common to eat cheese from France, lamb from New Zealand, apples from England and prawns from Vietnam, all thanks to the humble reefer. It also means that we are no longer slaves to the seasons and can eat our favourite fruits and vegetables at virtually any time of year. The invention of the shipping container was truly one of the greatest enablers of globalisation and it continues to make the world a smaller place.

Size is Everything!

In an effort to achieve economies of scale and thereby improve profitability, shipping companies are commissioning ever larger vessels. Over the past three years, sizes have increased by as much as 30%. During Christmas of 2015 the Benjamin Franklin, built in China but operated by French shipping company CMA CGM, became the largest shipping container vessel ever to dock at an American harbour, when it sailed into the Port of Long Beach.

Almost 400-metres in length, this colossal beast is larger than the Empire State Building, wider than an NFL football pitch, has the load capacity of 235 Olympic swimming pools and can move 18,000 standard shipping containers or TEUs. Yet it still languishes way back in tenth place in the container vessel league! Top spot is currently held by the MV CSCL Globe with a capacity of 19,100 TEUs. Despite its size, this ship can still reach a speed of 22 knots.

Twenty-foot Equivalent Units

We should explain that cargo capacity is typically measured in TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) to make for easy comparison and handling fee calculations. It’s not designed to provide precise statistics and is based on the volume of standard 20-foot (6.1m) intermodal shipping containers, which range in height from the standard 8’6” model up to 9’6” and right down to 4’3”. A standard 20-foot shipping container offers approximately 1,360 cubic feet of load space.