As container vessels continue to grow and expand their capacity, ports around the world are forced to adapt to accommodate oversized traffic.
In an article published for porttechnology.org, Drewery Maritime Research’s Senior Analyst for ports & terminals, Neil Davidson, notes that it’s not only the size of newly added container vessels that pose a problem for ports around the world; alliances between some of the largest ocean freight carriers are stocking high-capacity ships to the gills.
Mr. Davidson points out that the new supersized ships pose their own logistical issues for ports of harbors—water near docking stations has to be deeper, gantry cranes need to have longer horizontal reaches and docking berths need to be expanded. But the higher capacity of containers per ship with largely the same disembarking time limits (often set by the carrier instead of the port) places an added stress on terminal personnel. Box exchanges—the offloading of one set of containers and onboarding of another—are increasing in target exchanges per hour, forcing ports and terminals to ramp up their loading/unloading production and adding stress to the already stressful careers of longshoremen.
Mr. Davidson writes that the increase in container traffic isn’t just caused by the increase in max capacity of container vessels. Rather, ocean carriers are moving towards large alliances, where one ship can be used by two or more major carriers to ship containers to the same ports, regardless of carrier affiliations. This ensures that the vessels are packed with cargo at almost every call.
To get an idea of the work ahead for ports as they race to make room for increased container traffic, take a look at this documentary from National Geographic.