On December 16, United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) announced that it had loaded what it described as a record-breaking 18,600 TEUs on board its ULCV container ship Al Muraykh, just 200 shy of her maximum rated capacity.
The shipment is UASC’s highest utilization to date of the Muraykh’s class, and the company suggests that the carbon dioxide output per TEU on this journey will be over 60 percent lower than if the containers were shipped with a 13,500 TEU ship.
The 200,000 dwt Muraykh is now en route from Malaysia to the U.K. Containers on board were loaded by UASC and its partners in the Ocean Three alliance.
Al Muraykh is a new arrival in the ULCV category; she was delivered in August 2015 and is now the world’s tenth largest, following closely after the vessels of MSC’s Oliver class at 19,200 TEU and CSCL’s Globe class at 19,100 TEU.
Maersk CEO Soren Skou recently said that the 19,000 TEU mark was likely to be the limit for the foreseeable future, and that concepts for a 25,000 TEU behemoth – while technically feasible – were not commercially viable.
“We are the biggest carrier in Asia. We have 22 percent market share to Northern Europe. That means we ship around 55,000 TEUs per week from Asia,” he told media at JOC’s Trans-Pacific Maritime conference. “If you deploy 25,000-TEU ships, you have enough cargo for basically two strings. That’s not a competitive product. You need to be able to offer five or six sailings per week.
The largest available container ships have increased dramatically in size over the last 40 years. In 1970, the highest TEU capacity was in the range of 3,000 TEU. By the late 1980s, the largest ships could hold 4,500 TEU, followed in the 1990s by Maersk’s “R” class and “S” class at 6,000 at 8,000 TEU respectively.
Fuel consumption per container has fallen considerably over that time period as each ship’s low-speed two-stroke diesel propels an ever-higher number of containers. The world’s most powerful two-stroke, the 108,000 bhp Wartsila RT-flex96C, converts over half of fuel energy consumed into power for propulsion – nearly twice the efficiency of a modern gasoline engine.