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.


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