Biggest container ships – industry overview


''When you get bigger ships, you can more efficiently carry more cargo, so the carbon footprint you get per tonne of cargo is smaller." Unni Einemo, Sustainable Shipping

biggest container_ship_evolutionContainer ships are the transport concept that have changed the world. They are one of the key elements in the world globalization. Their introduction made economic sense to the international goods trade.

The largest container ships offer massive cost reduction in goods transportation. The efficiency of that transport concept reveals in competition of building larger and larger vessels.

The biggest cruise ship in the world, since 2013, is the Triple  E class vessel Maersk McKinney Moler owned by Maersk, Denmark.

Biggest Container Ship Top 20

The biggest container ship ranking is based on their TEU capacity, except Maersk. They usually do not quote TEU capacity but maximum load capacity with all TEU filled with an average value of 14 tonne. The real TEU may be much higher due to its commercial sensitivity.



Length overall (m/ft)

Maximum TEU



1 Maersk Mc-Kinney Moler 2013 398/ 1,306 18,270 174,500 Maersk (Denmark)
2 Majestic Maersk 2013 398/ 1,306 18,270 174,500 Maersk (Denmark)
3 Mary Maersk 2013 398/ 1,306 18,270 174,500 Maersk (Denmark)
4 Marie Maersk 2013 398/ 1,306 18,270 174,500 Maersk (Denmark)
5 CMA CGM Marco Polo 2012 396/ 1,299 16,020 175,343 CMA CGM (France)
6 CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt 2013 396/ 1,299 16,020 153,022 CMA CGM (France)
7 CMA CGM Jules Verne 2013 396/ 1,299 16,020 153,022 CMA CGM (France)
8 Emma Maersk 2006 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
9 Estelle Maersk 2006 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
10 Eleonora Maersk 2007 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
11 Evelyn Maersk 2007 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
12 Ebba Maersk 2007 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
13 Elly Maersk 2007 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
14 Edith Maersk 2007 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
15 Eugen Maersk 2008 397.7/ 1,305 15,500 151,687 Maersk (Denmark)
16 CSCL Star 2010 366/ 1,201 14,074 165,300 CSCL (China)
17 CSCL Saturn 2011 366/ 1,201 14,074 158,000 CSCL (China)
18 CSCL Mercury 2011 366/ 1,201 14,074 155,470 CSCL (China)
19 CSCL Mars 2011 366/1,201 14,074 150,853 CSCL (China)
20 CSCL Uranus 2012 366/ 1,201 14,074 150,853 CSCL (China)

''The Biggest container ship in time" – Container Shipping History

''More Players, Bigger Ships"

biggest container_ship_ cargo portThe idea of transporting goods in containers is not a new one. The first were the ancient Greeks. They used to transport wine or oil in sealed vests, amphorae or vases. Large trunks were used by later cultures for shipping different types of goods. The containerization, as a modern industry, dates since the 1950s.

''Father of the contirezation" is Malcom McLean. He was an owner of trucking business in America, North Carolina.

The laborious methods were not his idea of handling goods. He was the one that saw that overcoming the highways congestion, the inefficient procedures for loading and unloading cargo vessels would benefit that kind of transportation. His idea was the first biggest container ship in the world - the Ideal-X, refitted tanker. Her maiden voyage was on April 26, 1956. The first biggest container ship carried 58 truck bodies from from Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas and this is considered to be the start of the container ship industry.

biggest container ship evolution The 1960s decade was the start of the shipping companies' competition for building the biggest container ship. Companies including P&O , Maersk Line and Hapag Lloyd introduced their first vessels constructed for carrying containers.

After his death in 2001, Malcolm Mclean was named "Man of the Century" (awarded by the International Maritime Hall of Fame and by Lloyd’s List).

The container ships today transport almost 90 % of the non-bulk cargo in the world. The biggest container ship was able to carry 14,074 TEU in 2007, 15,500 TEU in 2008 and now 18,270 TEU.

biggest container ship evolutionDespite the fact that the container industry changed the world, it caused many issue. There were huge concerns of handling the biggest container ship. Most of the world ports were not prepared to accommodate the enormous sized ships.

The advantage of the biggest container ship is that it reduces dramatically the costs, the cargo comes save in sealed by the factory containers. There are exact tracking systems, so the arrival of the goods is known with accuracy. The operations are quite optimized.

The container ship industry aims also building environment-friendly vessels. The biggest container ship in the world Maersk McKinney Moller is part of the Triple E class - economy, energy, environment. She sets more than sizes standard.

Container Ships Size Categories

The biggest container ship in time belonged to different categories depending on her TEU. They are divided into seven categories.

Category TEU Length Beam Draft Example
Ultra Large Container Vessel (ULCV) Higher than 14,501 Longer than 366 m (1,200 ft) Wider than 49 m/ 160.7 ft Deeper than 15.2 m/ 49.9 ft Maersk McKinney Moller, Emma Maersk
New panamax 10,000–14,500 366 m / 1,200 ft 49 m / 160.7 ft 15.2 m/ 49.9 ft COSCO Guangzhou class, MV COSCO Guangzhou
Post panamax 5,101–10,000
Panamax 3,001 – 5,100 294.13 m / 965 ft 32.13 m / 106 ft 12.04 m/ 39.5 ft Bay-class, MV Providence Bay
Feedermax 2,001 – 3,000 MV Trans Atlantic
Feeder 1,001 – 2,000
Small feeder Up to 1,000
biggest container ship evolution

The Panamax type vessel has sizes limited by the Panama Channel. A "New Panamax" container ship will transit the new built three locks. The smallest container ships are the feeders. Their main service is collecting cargo from small ports and discharging it at a bigger one. Then the cargo is transshipped on a larger ship.

The biggest container ship in the world is ULCV (Ultra Large Container Vessel).