Ed Gresser, Vice President and Director for Trade and Global Markets at PPI, published his most recent trade fact of the week looking at the world’s container shipping fleet.

  • Alphaliner, a Paris-based maritime consultancy, counts 6936 container ships operating worldwide this week, up from 5,101 in 2014, which makes up 6% of the world’s 105,000 cargo vessels and a seventh of the world’s 2.2 billion deadweight tons of merchant shipping. The full container fleet has a combined capacity of 29.7 million TEU, up 50% since 2014.
  • Denmark-based shipping association BIMCO says 350 new container ships launched in 2023, and 2024 will likely top 475. 
  • The Dali's 948 feet or 300 meters long, with deadweight tonnage of 116,851 tons and a crew of 21. As of this month, 121 ships can carry 20,000 TEU or more. The largest one on the water today is MSC Irina, owned by Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Corporation, whose capacity more than doubles Dali’s at 24,326 TEU and 240,739 deadweight tons.
  • While the container-ship concept is almost 70 years old, most of the actual ships are young, and every 20,000+ TEU ship has been built since 2017. UNCTAD’s most recent Review of Maritime Transport says the average container ship is 14 years old.
  • Though not exactly a giant floating robot, a modern container ship isn’t far from that. Dali’s forlorn crew totals 21 people and the MSC Irina needs just 25.  To put this in perspective, the Great Republic— the largest 19th-century clipper ship, built to sail back and forth from New to Australia — needed a crew of 67 to manage about 5000 tons of cargo.