[Updated for 2024] The International Shipping Industry shares a major chunk, about 90%, of the global trade in goods. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, there are currently more than 50,000 merchant ships operating in the oceans.
Container ships (also spelt as containerships) are cargo ships that carry the load in large-sized intermodal containers. They are classified into various categories based on their carrying capacity.
Presently, there are seven major types of container ships in service. In ascending order, they are – Small Feeder, Feeder, Feedermax, Panamax, Post Panamax, New Panamax (or Neo Panamax) and Ultra Large Container Vessel (ULCV).
In 1956, Malcolm McLean created ripples in the cargo shipping industry by introducing the idea of containerships. Since then, the race to build the most efficient ships has been on fire, producing some of the world’s largest container ships within the boundaries of physics.
The biggest container vessels now rival crude oil tankers and bulk carriers as the largest commercial seaborne vessels.
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Largest Container Ships In 2024
We will be looking at a list of the world’s largest container ships in 2024 based on their capacity, which is measured in TEU (a Twenty-foot equivalent unit).
1. MSC Irina
MSC Irina has become the world’s largest container ship, with a capacity of 24,346 TEUs. It was put into service in 2023 and is sailing under the Liberian Flag. It measures about 399.9 meters in length and boasts a moulded width of about 61.3 meters.
She took her sea trials in February 2023 and was then sent to Zhejiang Zhoushan Shipyard for final work. MSC Irina was launched in March 2023. Recently, the behemoth sailed on her maiden voyage and docked at Nansha Port.
Her sister ship, MSC Loreto, with the same carrying capacity and dimensions, is also sailing under the flag of Liberia.
MSC Michel Cappellini has a capacity of 24,346 TEU and is one of the biggest container ships in the world. It was built in 2023 by Yangzijiang Shipbuilding in China. It is 400 m long, 61.5 m wide and 16.5 m deep. The ship has been named after Michel Cappellini, a former MSC CEO who led the company to achieve new heights.
Irina is the first among the six ships which would be constructed by the Chinese Jiangsu Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group.
These new vessels have unique design elements to decrease the consumption of fuel, such as propellers with a large diameter and a system that generates air bubbles along the hull to reduce water resistance. It is also fitted with hybrid scrubbers that would decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 3 to 4%.
2. OOCL Spain
Orient Overseas Container Line, also known as OOCL, got its 1st 24,188 TEU capacity container ship, which was named the OOCL Spain. It was constructed by Nantong COSCO KHI Ship Engineering Co.
The giant ship has a total length of 399.9 m and a 61.3 m beam. On 25th March 2023, the Hong Kong Seaport Alliance welcomed OOCL Spain on her maiden voyage.
She marked a new record for the Hong Kong Port as the 1st container ship with a TEU capacity of over 24,000 calling the city.
With a gross tonnage of 235,341 tonnes, the ship is currently sailing under the flag of Hong Kong. She is deployed on the company’s Aisa-Europe Service LL3.
The American Bureau of Shipping has awarded her ‘ Smart Ship’ notation due to the use of intelligent technologies onboard that aid in improving fuel efficiency, enabling structural health monitoring and high safety standards.
3. ONE Innovation
One Innovation is One Network Express’s first ever 24,000 TEU class Megamax. It was delivered on 2nd June 2023, at Kure Shipyard of Japan Marine United Corporation.
The vessel has an LOA of 399.95 m and a beam of 61.40 m. It has a 33.2 m depth and a scantling draft of 16.50 m. The ship has a capacity of up to 24,136 TEU.
It would bring economies of scale and decrease carbon emissions due to its unique hull designs that aim to increase the intake of cargo and reduce the consumption of fuel.
One Innovation has an exhaust gas cleaning system, a bow windshield, an energy-saving device, etc. She is also the first of the 6 new Megamax ships to join ONE’s core fleet.
4. MSC Tessa
The containership MSC Tessa was built by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding for the Mediterranean Shipping Company.
The mega ship has a carrying capacity of 24,116 TEUs. Its deck area is equivalent to 4 football fields. It is 399.9 metres long and 61.5 m wide and is sailing under the flag of Liberia.
The ship is equipped with a small bulbous bow, energy-saving ducts, huge propellors and hybrid scrubbers. It utilises air lubrication to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Classed by DNV, the ship has a moulded depth of 33.2 m and the stacked containers on the ship can reach a height of 22 stories. The vessel can carry over 240,000 tonnes of cargo as well.
5. Ever Alot
Ever Alot was constructed in 2022 by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group Co., a subsidiary of China Statebuilding Corporation. It was delivered to the Taiwanese Shipping Company Evergreen Marine.
It can carry up to 24,004 TEUs and is 399.9 m long and 61.5 m wide, with a draft of 17 m. It has a gross tonnage of 236,228 tonnes and a deck area covering 24,000 square metres.
Ever Alot is the 7th container ship in the company’s A-Class and the 1st ship in the class and the world to surpass the 24,000 TEU mark. It serves the trade routes between Europe and the Far East.
The ship has hydrodynamic optimisation technology that enables it to ship heavy loads at high speed while consuming less fuel.
6. Ever Ace
With a capacity of 23,992 TEUs, Ever ACE is one of the world’s largest container ships.
It set sail on her maiden voyage in July 2021. This 399.9-meter-long giant has 24 rows of side-by-side containers having a massive breadth of 61.5 meters.
Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea built this modern marvel.
The main engine is a 2-stroke Wartsila engine comprising 11 cylinders delivering 70950 Kilowatts of power, which accelerated the ship to a cruising speed of 22.6 knots.
7. HMM Algeciras
HMM Algeciras has a capacity of 23,964 TEUs and is one of twelve 24000 TEU eco-friendly container vessels.
These container ships are also considered one of the most technologically advanced containerships in the world.
The Panama-flagged vessel is 399.9 m long, 61 m wide and has a 33.2 m depth. The ship was constructed by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering.
HMM plans to enhance its environmental capabilities by operating newly launched twenty containerships.
The vessels are basically equipped with a scrubber system in preparation for IMO 2020 environmental regulation.
In addition, optimised hull design and highly efficient engines are also expected to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
8. HMM Oslo
HMM Oslo follows closely behind her sister ship, HMM Algericas. Constructed by Samsung Heavy Industries, HMM Oslo and its sister ships made their maiden voyage in 2020.
The Panama Flagged Vessel is 399.9 meters long and 61.50 meters wide, with a maximum draft of 16.50 m.
HMM Oslo has a carrying capacity of 23,820 TEU.
9. MSC Gulsun
MSC Gulsun is the 8th biggest container ship in the world, operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company. It was one of the first vessels in history which could transport 24 container rows side by side owing to its massive breadth of 62 meters.
It has a capacity of 23,756 TEUs and a length of 399.9 meters.
It was built by Samsung Heavy Industries and is registered in Panama. It is equipped with a dual-tower fire fighting system and is such designed that the increased container carrying capacity leads to a reduction in overall carbon footprint.
10. Berlin Express
Boasting a capacity of 23,660 TEU, this engineering marvel is one of the biggest containerships in the world. It is fuelled by LNG and has a type-B tank with an 18,900 cubic metre capacity.
It is the world’s first ship which uses high-manganese steel and also has the DNV Cyber Secure class notation.
It is 400 m long and 61 m broad, and with its 11 sister ships, Hapag-Lloyd will launch a new Hamburg Express Class whose special feature will be the propulsion system.
This class of ships would be equipped with dual-fuel technology, enabling them to run on LNH and future non-fossil fuels like e-methane. Berlin Express has a MAN main engine with an output of more than 75,000 KW, allowing it to attain a cruising speed of 22 knots.
11. MSC Mina
MSC Mina also belongs to the Gulsun class of container ships. Operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, MSC Mina has a container carrying capacity of 23,656 TEU.
Constructed by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, the ship measures 399.8 metres long and 61 metres wide.
12. CMA CGM Jacques Saadé
Jacques Saadé of CMA CGM is one of the world’s largest containerships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The vessel has a capacity of 23,112 TEU and measures 399.9 meters in length, with a 61.3-meter beam and a height of 78 meters.
The Jacques Saadé is a group of nine container ships built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation.
13. OOCL Hong Kong
The OOCL Hong Kong was one of the largest containerships ever when it was launched in 2017. She is the first ship ever to surpass the 2100 TEU mark.
It is an engineering marvel produced by the firm Orient Overseas Container Line.
Constructed by the Samsung Heavy Industries Geoje shipyard, it has a carrying capacity of 21,413 TEU.
It is one of the biggest container ships, with a length of 399.87 metres, a breadth of 58.8 metres and a depth of 32.5 metres.
It was christened and delivered in May 2017 and serves the trade lane from East Asia to Northern Europe under the flag of Hong Kong.
According to OOCL, China’s One Belt One Road initiative and the signing of the Hong Kong – ASEAN Free Trade Agreement have led to the creation of such a gigantic vessel.
14. COSCO Shipping Universe
This giant, with a carrying capacity of 21,237 TEU, is the largest cargo ship in China.
It has a length of 400 metres and is 58.6 metres wide. Built in 2018 by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), it was transferred to China Ocean Shipping Company Limited (COSCO).
For optimum performance and enhanced fuel efficiency, the ship is equipped with ABB Turbochargers, which help it achieve a maximum speed of 22 nautical miles per hour.
With a deadweight of 199,000 MT, the ship has become a flagship vessel of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which links China’s coast to Europe and Africa through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
It carries the flag of Hong Kong and plays a crucial role in implementing China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.
15. CMA CGM Antoine De Saint Exupery
Named after the French author and aviator Antoine De Saint Exupery, it was built by Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, Philippines.
It has a capacity of 20,954 TEU, making it the largest container ship to sail under the French flag.
It is 400 metres long and 59 metres wide and has a deadweight of 202684 MT. It was launched in 2017 and entered into service in February 2018 to serve in the French Asia Line 1 (FAL-1), the longest sea route connecting Asia to Northern Europe.
It is an environment-friendly vessel with a new generation engine and a Becker-twisted fin, ensuring significant reductions in oil consumption (-25%) and carbon dioxide emissions (-4%). In addition, it has a system of filters and UV lamps for the treatment of ballast water, which ensures greater protection of marine biodiversity.
16. Madrid Maersk
This cargo ship was the first of the eleven Second Generation Maersk Triple E-class containers. Built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, it is the second container ship to surpass the 20,000 TEU mark with a capacity of 20,568 TEU.
Although the official capacity rating of the ship was set to 19,630 TEU, Maersk Line successfully modified the design resulting in the breaking of the 20,000 TEU mark.
With a deadweight tonnage of 192,672MT, it measures 399 meters in length and 58.6 meters in breadth.
The Danish container shipping major Maersk Line has ownership rights over the ultra-large container vessel (ULCV), while the A.P.Moller-Maersk Group operates it.
17. MOL Truth
Proudly carrying the flag of Panama, this ship is operated by the famous Ocean Network Express (ONE) group of Japan. The manufacturer Saijo shipyards of Imabari Shipbuilding Company Limited has ensured a huge size of 399 metres long and 58 metres broad.
With a deadweight of 189,766 MT and a loading capacity of 20,182 TEU, it operates in the Asia-Northern Europe trade route as part of ‘The Alliance’.
The MOL truth has various advanced technologies, such as low-friction hull paint, a high-efficiency propeller and PBCF (*2), a high-efficiency engine plant, and an optimized hull shape, which help it in reducing its environmental impact by reducing CO2 emissions by up to 30%.
18. MOL Triumph
MOL Triumph is the seventh-largest containership in the world. It was built in March 2017 by Samsung Heavy Industries in Geoje, South Korea, for the Japanese shipping operator Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.
The vessel is the world’s first 20,000 TEU-class container ship. Triumph’s main engine is the MAN B&W G95ME, providing a maximum output power of 82,440 kW. This is enough to enable the vessel to traverse with a service speed of 22.0 knots, while the maximum recorded speed is 24.0 knots.
The dead weight of the box ship is 192,672 DWT, while the maximum cargo capacity is 20,170 TEU. In addition, the ship has various highly advanced energy-saving technologies, including low friction underwater paint, a high-efficiency rudder, and an improvised propeller, which reduces the water resistance and thus helps boost fuel efficiency.
19. Ever Glory
Ever Glory is a container ship constructed in 2019 for Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine and currently sailing under the Liberian Flag. It has a gross tonnage of 219,775 tonnes and a deadweight of 198937 tonnes.
It has a carrying capacity of 20,160 TEUs and is an Evergreen G Class container ship. Its other three sister ships are Ever Govern, Ever Globe and Ever Greet.
Ever Glory is the only one in her class who is sailing under the flag of Liberia, while her sister ships are registered under the flag of Panama. These ships were constructed in 2018 and 2019 by Imambari Shipbuilding, based in Japan.
The Ever-Glory is 400 m long and 58.8 m wide and has a maximum draught of 16 m.
20. Ever Golden
This is another giant cargo ship with an unbelievably high DWT of 218,000 MT. Having a length of 400 metres and a breadth of 58.8 metres, it is longer than four football fields combined. She has a carrying capacity of 20,124 TEUs.
It was built in 2018 by the Imabari Shipbuilding, Saijo shipyard. It is the first 20,000 TEU container ship built at Imabari Shipbuilding, among its sister ships, namely Ever – Goods, Genius, Given and Gifted, to be delivered to Taiwan’s cargo shipping giant EVERGREEN, which currently operates it.
It has an effective draught of 12 metres but lacks speed, with the maximum recorded speed being 11.4 nautical miles per hour. It carries the flag of Panama.
21. COSCO Shipping Taurus
Carrying the pin-wheeled flag of Hong Kong, the Shipping Taurus is another marvel operated by the China Ocean Shipping Company Limited (COSCO). The ship was built in 2018 by Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding. It is a mono-hull ship meant exclusively for container carriage. The vessel has a length of 399.8 metres and a breadth of 58.7 metres.
Interestingly, it is one of the five sister ships of the DNV GL class, each having names of the five famous constellations, namely COSCO Shipping – Taurus, Gemini, Virgo, Libra and Sagittarius. Each has a loading capacity of 20,119 TEU and a gross tonnage of 194,864 MT.
22. MV Barzan
This Ultra Large Container Vessel (UCLV) is of the DNV GL class and was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Mopko, South Korea, in 2015. As of 2015, it held the record for the largest container ship, with a carrying capacity of 18,800 TEUs.
Unlike the previous ships generally owned and operated by Chinese or Japanese companies, this vessel is owned by the United Arab Shipping Company (UASC).
Having a DWT of 199,744 and a gross tonnage of 195,636, this ship has far lower carbon emissions than Maersk EEE class container ships, making it a significant accomplishment in this regard.
In fact, it has the lowest per-container level of carbon emissions. Its Energy Efficiency Design Index is quoted as almost 50% less than the International Maritime Organization limit set for 2025.
We have the famous Hapag-Lloyd as the operator and the flag of Malta on it.
To conclude, the world’s largest containerships are a fine example of the remarkable feat of engineering and innovation in the maritime industry. In the future, we may see more colossal ships that may break the records of the vessels mentioned in this article.
With their humongous size and carrying capacities, container ships have revolutionised the way in which goods are transported across the earth, enabling more cost-effective, efficient and timely deliveries.
However, one should remember that these huge container ships pose many challenges and difficulties as well. They need special infrastructure and maintenance to operate at their optimum levels.
As the maritime industry continues to make more technological breakthroughs and advancements, it would be interesting to see larger and more advanced containerships.
Till then, let us know in the comments about the largest containership you have worked on till now.
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Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.