Ship Evolution

As demand for international sea freight continues to expand, so too does the size of container ships, which continue to expand at an unprecedented scale.

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Champion Freight

How Big Will They Go?

15 May 2018

Imagine a ship, colossal in size, measuring over 3 ½ rugby fields or 400 metres in length. At a height of 73.5 metres, it's taller than the Wellington Beehive, and has a gross tonnage of 210,000.

The OOCL Hong Kong is the world's largest container ship by TEU capacity (21,413). Its construction continues a 'growing' trend in the manufacture of cargo ships, which has seen the behemoths of the sea triple in size since the 1950s.

Ship Breaking

What happens to ships when they die? It's a controversial, yet common ship disposal method which has a contrasting environmental reputation.

Ship Demolition

Growing Trend

When it comes to international shipping, size really does matter, offering improved transport efficiencies and economies of scale which save on collective fleet maintenance, fuel, manpower, etc.

Matched in scale by ever increasing demand in international trade, the evolution of the container ship continues to grow at an astonishing rate, testing the engineering frontiers of size, weight and capacity of transport by sea.

Container ship

1956: Early Container Ship

  • 137 x 17 x 9 metres
  • 500 - 800 TEU, 6 containers across x 4 containers high

1970: Fully Cellular

  • 215 x 20 x 10 metres
  • 1,000 - 2,500 TEU, 10 containers across x 9 containers high

1980: Panamax

  • 250 x 32 x 12.5 metres
  • 3,000 - 3,400 TEU, 13 containers across x 11 containers high

1985: Panamax Max

  • 290 x 32 x 12.5 metres
  • 3,400 - 4,500 TEU, 13 containers across x 14 containers high

1988: Post Panamax

  • 285 x 40 x 13 metres
  • 4,000 - 5,000 TEU, 15 containers across x 14 containers high

2000: Post Panamax Plus

  • 300 x 49 x 14.5 metres
  • 6,000 - 8,000 TEU, 17 containers across x 15 containers high

2014: New Panamax

  • 366 x 49 x 15.2 metres
  • 12,500 TEU, 20 containers across x 16 containers high

2017: OOCL Hong Kong

  • 400 x 59 x 16 metres
  • 21,413 TEU
Container ship

Don't expect to see the OOCL Hong Kong sail to New Zealand anytime soon. Due to channel and port capacity restrictions, the Aotea Maersk (9,640 TEU) is the largest container ship to visit our shores in recent years.