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Graphic shows container ships evolution and global maritime trade between 1970 and 2019.


Debate over huge container ships

By Jordi Bou

March 31, 2021 - The blocking of the Suez Canal by a 220,000-tonne ship is bringing into question whether vessels have outgrown the infrastructure needed to support them.

As global trade has accelerated, so has the growth of the shipping industry – and ship size. Container capacity has increased 1,500% since 1968 and has almost doubled over last decade.

The growth of the shipping industry and ship size has played a central role in creating the modern economy, but the growth in ship size has come at a cost. It has effectively pitted port against port, canal against canal.

Ships of this size are both more efficient and environmentally friendly, but stacking containers higher makes such ships more susceptible to high winds, while stacking them wider can increase hydrodynamic forces that them harder to steer in tight spaces, such as ports and canals.

PUBLISHED: 31/03/2021; STORY: Graphic News