The future of ports and vessels

It is a fun game to write out only the last paragraphs of good books:

Where vessel size had once been limited by the locks in the Panama Canal, containerships had grown so large that twenty-first-century naval architects were constrained by the Straits of Malacca, the busy shipping lane between Malaysia and Indonesia.  If a containership ever reaches Malacca-Max, the maximum size for a vessel able to pass through the straits, it will be a quarter mile long and 190 feet wide, with its bottom some 65 feet below the waterline.  If it should sink, it will take nearly $1 billion of cargo with it.  Its capacity will be 18,000 TEUs, or 9,000 standard 40-foot containers, enough to fill a 68-mile line of trucks each time it arrives in port.  Where it will call is a serious question, because few ports anywhere are deep enough to accommodate it.  The answer may well be brand-new ports built in deep water offshore, with Malacca-Max ships linking offshore platforms and smaller vessels shuttling containers to land.  If they ever come about, these enormously costly ships and ports will create yet more economies of scale, making it still cheaper and easier to move goods around the globe.

That is from Marc Levinson’s The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger.  Here is a link to Virginia Postrel’s post on the book.  Here is a photo of a Malacca-Max ship; sadly there is no elephant nearby.

Comments

D@mn it, I was going to read that book, but now you've given away the ending!

Yes as the rapidly growing economy is steadily evolving, the way products are transferred from point A to point B should be relooked at as well, but in this case, is bigger actually better? Sure we'll be able to pack more onto one ship and have less turnover time, but with bigger ships comes new technology that must change as well. The docks that are already built need to be widened and probably deepened to accommodate the bigger and larger ships. The cranes that move the containers from the ship to land would have to be modified or even scrapped and made new again to be able to keep up with such a massive load. Not to mention the amount of energy that's involved with powering this enormous ships. The maintenance on such a ship can be a huge burden and something very minor can lead to a very costly mistake. With the constant fluctuation of fuel I can not imagine the amount of money that needs to be dropped into a ship that big. New technology would have to be developed in order to power such a machine cheaper and more efficiently. There's no doubt that we'll need bigger carriers, but the costs to adapt such new features is going to by sky rocketing.

I wonder how many times in history ddang could have made those same dour comments about not only cargo ships but anything that was about to increase in scale to gain efficiencies? I'm betting dozens and dozens and probably in each case the costs were outshined by the gains.

I registered request for patent n.sp2004u000001 covering offshore up/load operations from big container vessels for Italian ports. Just now I am in Amsterdam at Intertraffic show to promote the patent.
Some informatinos are at www.intertraffic.com (look for company Orlandini).
I can send further informations on mail request.

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