Longer than Auckland’s Sky Tower by 70m at 400m long, 20 storeys high when fully loaded, it is hard to really grasp how enormous Moller-Maersk’s newest ship, so called “supership” on account of its size.
Launched in June 2013, the vessel’s dimensions make it the biggest freighter in history, but she is in no way an anomaly. Quite the opposite, ships of her type are becoming the trend, and for good reasons: with their gigantic size come, among other things, economies of scale, as shipping companies can transport more goods on one voyage.
In addition, those ships are designed with the latest technologies – more efficient engines and hull shapes – resulting in them consuming less energy than their predecessors, by as much as 35% less fuel. In times when the price of crude oil is constantly rising and subject to the volatile political climate of the countries who produce it, it is certainly good news for the industry.
They are also more environmentally friendly, producing 50% less carbon dioxide, and those three characteristics (Energy efficiency, Environmental friendliness and Economies of scale) have given them their nickname: “Triple-E”.
The drawback of ships with such dimensions is that not all ports can accommodate them. At present, there are indeed only 13 ports worldwide capable of handling them, and none of them in New Zealand, as the largest ports in the country are only able to handle 5000 TEUs, i.e. ships 5 times smaller than the Moller-Maersk’s vessel.
In addition, the Triple-Es can’t use all maritime routes, such as the Panama Canal, which lengthens their journey considerably, and while there are plans to build a second canal which would be able to let them through, other short cuts such as the Malacca Strait, a crucial shipping lane in Asia, will always remain closed to them.
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