China’s State Shipbuilding Corporation has recently delivered the world’s largest container ship, the MSC Tessa, to the Mediterranean Shipping Company. This megaship boasts a deck area equivalent to four football fields and can carry up to 24,116 TEU containers at a time, stacked up to 26 deep. With dimensions of 399.99 m (1,312.3 ft) long and 61.5 m (202 ft) wide, the MSC Tessa can transport more than 240,000 tons of cargo.
Interestingly, the MSC Tessa is almost identical in length and width to numerous previous record-holders, dating back to 2011’s Triple-E Maersk container ship and beyond. Although it can carry more containers than any previous ship, it will likely be succeeded by the MSC Irina or MSC Loreto, both on order by the same customer, which can transport a few hundred more containers but will not be physically larger.
The size limit for container ships is not at the manufacturing end, as evidenced by the Seawise Giant supertanker, which was 458.45 m (1,504.1 ft) long and 68.6 m (225.07 ft) wide, and was built in the late 1970s. However, unlike supertankers, container ships require appropriate dock facilities to handle their size, and the current limits are expected to remain until a sufficient number of ports globally have upgraded their land infrastructure to accommodate larger vessels.
The MSC Tessa and its successors represent a significant development for the shipping industry, enabling the transport of greater volumes of goods in a single voyage. However, the construction of larger vessels also presents logistical challenges, particularly when dealing with ports that lack the infrastructure to accommodate them. As a result, the trend towards ever-larger container ships will likely continue, but at a gradual pace, with shipping companies and port operators carefully weighing the benefits against the costs.
Overall, the delivery of the MSC Tessa megaship highlights China’s continued dominance in the shipbuilding industry, and its ability to produce vessels that push the boundaries of size and capacity. As global trade continues to grow, the demand for larger and more efficient container ships will only increase, and it will be interesting to see what innovations the industry will adopt to meet this demand while also addressing the logistical challenges that come with larger vessels.