TOP 10: Largest container ships in the world

Shipping lines are ordering Very Large Container Vessels in ever greater numbers, but which are the ten largest in the world?
APL, CMA CGM, Container ship, Containers, Maerk line, Msc, OOCL, ANALYSIS
CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci
CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci
CMA CGM Laperouse
CMA CGM Laperouse
APL Raffles
APL Raffles
MSC Camille
MSC Camille
CSCL Star
CSCL Star
Emma Maersk
Emma Maersk
CMA CGM Marco Polo
CMA CGM Marco Polo
Maersk Mc Kinney Møller
Maersk Mc Kinney Møller
CSCL Globe
CSCL Globe
MSC Oscar
MSC Oscar

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OOCL’s recent order of six 21,000-teu container ships broke two industry records, not only was it the largest single ship order to date, but also the largest order for container ships of more than 18,000-teu, which is currently the shipping industry’s upper limit in terms of size (excluding MSC Oscar, MSC Oliver and CSCL Globe). If 21,000-teu will soon be the new ‘largest container ship’ class, what are the current top ten in 2015?

Editor’s note: this list groups together vessels by teu capacity, the industry standard, rather than Maersk Line’s maximum load capacity in terms of filled containers with an average weight of 14-tons. If we simply listed the top 10 container ships individually, they would all be MSC and Maersk ships of the same size and design.



10. CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci/CMA CGM Christophe Colomb - 13,800-teu

Both these container ships were launched for French shipping giant CMA CGM in 2010. CMA CGM had until this time taken a conservative approach to the growing size of its container ships, with the next largest class of ships carrying 13,344-teu. That would all change a few years later with CMA CGM Marco Polo and her sisters.



9. CMA CGM Laperouse/CMA CGM Corte Real - 13,830-teu

CMA CGM was so measured in its plans to grow the size of the container ships in its fleet that it had actually launched the slightly larger Laperouse a year before the ships on the previous page. We say ‘slightly larger’, but in fact all four of these container ships are identical in length and beam, the only difference being that Laperouse and Corte Real can carry 30 additional containers.



8. APL Raffles - 13,900-teu

Like CSCL Globe, much further up in this list, APL Raffles is the only ship in this teu capacity category. She was launched in 2013 for American President Lines, a shipping company born out of the state bailout of Dollar Shipping in 1938 just before the outbreak of World War Two. The US need to rebuild its merchant fleet would contribute significantly to APL’s post-war growth thanks to state subsidies, but Raffles was launched with hard cash of its own. Within months she would be eclipsed by APL Tamasek, which carries 100 more containers and is part of the next grouping.



7. MSC Camille14,000-teu

Launched in 2009, MSC Camille leads this class of container ships, although she is not alone, sixteen other container ships have a capacity of 14,000-teu (MOL Quest, CSCL Venus, APL Temasek, MSC Savona, MSC Genova, MSC Deila, MSC Valeria, MSC Fillippa, MSC Danit, MSC Melatilde, MSC Paloma, MSC Ravenna, MSC Alexandra, MSC Rosa M, MSC La Spezia and MSC Taranto).



6. CSCL Star 14,074-teu

Like the 14,000-teu group of container ships, this is a fairly large one as well, with 7 ships including CSCL Star, which was launched first in 2010. Sister ships include CSCL Saturn, CSCL Mercury, CSCL Mars, CSCL Uranus, CSCL Neptune and CSCL Jupiter.



5. Emma Maersk15,500-teu

No one can forget Emma Maersk, the container ship that set the world of maritime journalism alight in 2006 when she was launched as the largest ship ever built (at that time), featuring a raft of innovative energy efficient features. Her efficiency, and that of her sister ships, led Maersk Line to call these vessels the E-Class. Sister ships include Estelle Maersk, Eleonora Maersk, Evelyn Maersk, Ebba Maersk, Elly Maersk, Edith Maersk and Eugen Maersk.



4. CMA CGM Marco Polo16,020-teu

Named after Venice’s most famous son (after Casanova perhaps), CMA CGM Marco Polo marked CMA CGM Line’s entry into the mega container ship league in 2012, carrying 2,200 more containers than any other ship in the fleet. She was soon joined by CMA CGM Jules Verne and CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt.

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3. Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller18,270-teu

Now we’re into the truly big leagues of the Very Large Container Vessels (VLCVs), with Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller having forged the path in July, 2013 for her sixteen sisters (and another four under construction at the time of writing). These are of course Maersk’s famous Triple E Class mainliners, but they’re not alone, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) entered the VLCV club in 2014 with MSC New York. Incredibly, MSC’s next largest vessels are ‘only’ 14,000-teu, revealing the ambitious nature of MSC New York as a ship order for the line, but they had much bigger plans in store!



2. CSCL Globe 19,100-teu

CSCL Globe is the only 19,100-teu container vessels currently in service, with four on order at the time of writing. She was launched in November, 2014 and made headlines with her unique size. Newspapers created infographics to try and convey to the general public how huge she truly is – for example, Globe can carry enough pairs of shoes for every single person in Germany and Denmark to get a pair. When fully loaded, her cargo can be worth more than the entire nominal GDP of Greenland.



1. MSC Oscar19,224-teu

MSC Oscar, launched in January, 2015 is the largest container ship in the world at present, along with sister ship MSC Oliver, which was launched in March. MSC ordered the two ships with options for a further 18, underscoring the one word that drives innovation in international shipping, efficiency. Oscar and Oliver can move containers at almost half the cost on a per teu basis when fully loaded. To put the size of MSC Oscar and Oliver in perspective, one of them is able to carry more than five times the cargo of MSC Alexa, MSC line’s first ever newbuild, which was launched in 1996.