The Largest Container Ships in the World: Engineering Marvels

In 2023, the MSC Irina is set to become the biggest container vessel worldwide, boasting a jaw-dropping length of 399.9 meters and a carrying capacity of over 24,000 containers.

Dimensions of Mega Container Ships

These colossal vessels are a sight to behold, with lengths of up to 400 meters, making them longer than some of the tallest buildings in the world.

To put it into perspective, these ships are as long as four football fields laid end to end! And it’s not just their length that is impressive; they can also have a height equivalent to a five-story building.

But it’s not just their size that makes these ships remarkable. The sheer weight they can carry is mind-boggling.

With cargo capacities of up to 24,000 containers, they can transport an unimaginable amount of goods. To give you an idea, that’s roughly equivalent to the weight of 12,000 cars!

Top 5 Largest Container Ships in the world

Here are the top 5 largest container ships in the world in 2023

1, MSC Irina

This massive ship measures a staggering length of 399.9 meters, making it longer than three football fields laid end to end. With a cargo capacity of over 24,000 containers, it is truly a behemoth of the seas.

2, MSC Loreto

MSC Loreto, another marvel of engineering. Coming in at a length of 399.9 meters, this ship is as bigger as MSC Irina. With a capacity of over 24,000 containers, it is capable of transporting an astounding amount of goods in a single journey.

3, OOCL Spain

OOCL Spain. Measuring 399.9 meters in length, it is a true giant of the seas. With a capacity of over 24,188 containers, it demonstrates the incredible scale of modern container shipping.

4, MSC Tessa

In fourth place, we have the mighty MSC Tessa, with a length of 399.9 meters. With its immense cargo capacity of over 24,116 containers, it plays a vital role in the global supply chain, ensuring the seamless movement of goods across continents.

5, MSC Celestino Maresca

Rounding out our top five is the MSC Celestinao Maresca, with a length of 399.5 meters. This incredible ship showcases the latest advancements in shipbuilding technology and boasts a capacity of over 24,116 containers.

What company owns the most container ships?

MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), as the largest container shipping company, owns the most container ships in the industry. With a fleet size of over 560 vessels, MSC dominates the global container shipping market.

Also Read:

What is the largest Evergreen container ship?

Evergreen, a Taiwanese shipping company, takes pride in its fleet of mega container ships, and the largest among them are the Ever Alot, Ever Aria, and Ever Atop.

These giants measure an astounding 399.9 meters in length, making them longer than four football fields combined. With a capacity of 24,004 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units), they can carry an unimaginable amount of cargo, ranging from consumer goods to automobiles.

How Mega Container Ships are designed and built

Designing mega container ships is a complex process that involves several steps to ensure efficiency, stability, and safety. Here is a step-by-step guide to how these massive vessels are designed:

1. Conceptualization

The design process begins with the conceptualization stage, where naval architects and engineers work together to determine the ship’s specifications and requirements. This includes factors such as cargo capacity, length, width, and height.

2. Hydrodynamics

Once the specifications are finalized, the next step is to optimize the ship’s hydrodynamic performance. This involves using advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to study how the ship will behave in different sea conditions.

The goal is to minimize drag and resistance, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

3. Structural Design

The structural design phase focuses on ensuring the ship’s stability and structural integrity.

Engineers use sophisticated computer-aided design (CAD) software to create a detailed structural model, taking into account factors such as weight distribution, stability in rough seas, and structural strength.

4. Materials Selection

Choosing the right materials is crucial for building mega container ships.

Lightweight and high-strength materials such as high-tensile steel and aluminum alloys are used to reduce the ship’s weight while maintaining structural integrity.

5. Power and Propulsion

Determining the power and propulsion systems is an important step in the design process. The ship’s engine(s) are selected based on factors such as power requirements, fuel efficiency, and environmental impact.

Advanced propulsion systems, such as pod propulsion, may be used to enhance maneuverability and efficiency.

6. Systems Integration

Mega container ships require the integration of various complex systems, including navigation, communication, cargo handling, and automation systems.

These systems need to be seamlessly integrated to ensure smooth operation and maximize efficiency.

7. Testing and Simulation

Before the construction begins, extensive testing and simulations are conducted to validate the ship’s design. This includes testing the ship’s stability in model tanks and using simulation software to analyze its performance in various scenarios.

8. Construction

Once the design is finalized and approved, the construction of the mega container ship begins. On average, it can take anywhere from two to four years to construct a container ship, depending on its size and complexity.

Here is a good documentary video on a mega container ship

How long does it take to unload or unload a container ship?

The amount of time needed to load or unload a container ship varies, typically taking from several hours to a few days.

This process has been improved by the utilization of automated systems, advanced technology, and infrastructure in many ports, resulting in increasingly shorter turnaround times.

How many container ships are in the ocean daily?

The exact number of container ships in the ocean on any given day can fluctuate, but it is estimated that there are thousands of these colossal vessels sailing the seas at any given time.

These ships come in all shapes and sizes, from smaller feeder vessels to massive mega container ships. They can be seen traversing major shipping routes and stopping at ports and terminals along the way to load and unload cargo.

Why don’t containers fall off container ships?

Firstly, containers are secured to the ship’s deck using a combination of twist locks and heavy-duty steel lashing rods.

These locks and rods are designed to withstand the immense forces experienced at sea, ensuring that the containers stay in place even during rough weather.

Additionally, container ships have specially designed cell guides that keep the containers in a stacked configuration.

These guides help to distribute the weight evenly and prevent the containers from shifting or toppling over.

Furthermore, ships are equipped with ballast systems that adjust the vessel’s stability by redistributing weight as containers are loaded and unloaded.

This ensures that the ship remains balanced and that the containers stay securely in place.

Lastly, crew members are responsible for monitoring and maintaining the stability of the cargo throughout the journey. They conduct regular checks, adjust lashings if necessary, and ensure that the containers are properly stowed.

Here is a good video to explain the methods used to secure containers on the ship

What is the average horsepower of a container ship?

On average, container ships have an average horsepower of around 45,000 to 85,000 horsepower. This is equivalent to the power generated by multiple jet engines or thousands of cars.

To put it into perspective, a typical car engine has around 100-300 horsepower, so the power generated by a container ship is on a completely different scale.

This immense horsepower is necessary to propel the ship through the water, overcome resistance, and maintain a steady cruising speed.

The engines that power container ships are often massive and can weigh hundreds of tons. They are designed to be highly efficient and reliable, capable of operating continuously for long periods.

Fueling the Giants

Container ships are known for their massive size and ability to transport a staggering amount of goods across the globe. However, with great power comes great energy requirements.

On average, a container ship can consume anywhere from 100 to 300 tons of fuel per day, depending on factors such as size, speed, and cargo capacity.

Challenges of Handling Mega ship

Handling mega container ships presents a unique set of challenges for shipping companies and port operators. Here are five major challenges that arise when it comes to handling these massive vessels:


Mega container ships require ports with deep drafts and strong infrastructure to accommodate their size and weight.

Ensuring that ports have the necessary equipment, such as cranes and container yards, is crucial to facilitate efficient loading and unloading operations.

Port Congestion

The large number of containers that mega-ships carry can lead to port congestion, especially if the port’s infrastructure and operations are not optimized to handle such large volumes.

This congestion can result in delays, increased costs, and logistical challenges.

Navigation and Maneuvering

Navigating and maneuvering mega container ships in tight waterways and congested ports can be a challenging task.

These ships require skilled pilots and advanced navigation systems to safely navigate through narrow channels, handle strong currents, and dock at terminals.

Labour and Training

The size and complexity of mega container ships require a skilled and well-trained workforce to handle their operations.

Training personnel to operate advanced machinery, handle automated systems, and efficiently manage the flow of cargo is crucial to ensuring smooth operations.

Environmental Impact

Mega container ships emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change and air pollution.

Addressing the environmental impact of these ships and adopting more sustainable practices, such as using cleaner fuels and implementing emission reduction technologies, is an ongoing challenge for the shipping industry.

Why are container ships getting bigger and bigger?

Container ships are getting bigger and bigger, and there are several reasons behind this trend.

Firstly, the demand for global trade is continuously growing, and larger ships are needed to accommodate the increasing volume of goods.

By increasing the size of container ships, shipping companies can achieve economies of scale, spreading out fixed costs over a larger cargo capacity and reducing shipping costs.

Secondly, advancements in shipbuilding technology and design have made it possible to construct larger and more efficient ships.

Thirdly, larger ships have a reduced environmental impact compared to smaller ships. They can transport more cargo in a single journey, reducing the overall number of ships needed and, consequently, the carbon emissions and fuel consumption associated with shipping.

Lastly, the larger size of container ships enables shipping companies to compete more effectively in the global market. By offering increased capacity and cost savings, they attract more customers and remain competitive in the industry.