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What Are Container Ships All About?

What Are Container Ships?Believe it or not – you can travel around the world  as a passenger on a container ship. Don’t expect live entertainment. Actually, don’t expect any fancy entertainment besides maybe a game room and a gym (maybe a pool if you’re lucky). And don’t expect it to be particularly cheap. This is a different kind of travel adventure.  You have to know how to entertain yourself! If you are gregarious enough you will get to know the crew and learn how a group of highly trained professionals make it all happen out on the ocean. For the right kind of traveler, an experience like this can be a real adventure.

The Importance of Container Ships

Container ships are cargo vessels used to transport cargo in bulk. They are generally characterized by large capacity and a minimal crew requirement. The term container ship most commonly refers to vessels transporting dry containers, these are used for the transportation of various goods such as fruit, vegetables, cars, and other products. However, container ships can also carry refrigerated containers and tank containers.

These days container ships are specially designed for maximum capacity and efficiency. For example, they are made of steel so they can be built strong enough, yet still lightweight enough to reduce fuel consumption. Containers were created in the 1950s for better cargo control. Before the invention of container ships, goods were delivered to ports where workers would sort and load them onto trucks, trains, or airplanes. With all this extra work it was very hard to stay on schedule, especially if one worker was slower than the rest or one piece of equipment broke down.


“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin


Containers certainly minimized these issues because they gave each worker a specific space to put each type of item thus reducing confusion, improving the flow of work, and increasing productivity. This led to larger ships that could carry more containers. Today these massive ships carry thousands of 20-foot-long steel boxes stacked on top of each other like an oversized pile of Lego blocks.

Types of Container Ships

Container ships are big, but there are plenty of different kinds. The majority of them fall into two categories: general cargo and multi-purpose.

General cargo ships carry huge amounts of cargo in large containers, but they don’t have the amenities that container ships do. They’re cheaper to buy and operate than other ship types, so they’re great for long ocean voyages or trips where the crew needs to be mostly self-sufficient because the ship can’t stop to pick up supplies. But the lack of modern amenities means that these ships don’t have engines or navigation systems as advanced as other container ship models, and they can’t carry as many passengers or vehicles.

Multi-purpose container ships are a bit more high-class than general cargo ships. They have cabins for passengers and crew, modern navigation systems and engines, and amenities like gyms and pools for entertainment. This makes them more expensive to buy and run, so they’re best for short trips between major ports with plenty of facilities on land within reach. These ships are also useful for carrying equipment or materials that need to be protected from the elements—like a weather satellite—since their hulls are designed to be watertight even if there are holes in the containers inside.

The container ship is one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, as it has drastically increased the efficiency with which cargo is moved around the world. These ships are capable of carrying thousands of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) at once, and over 2 million units per year.

Container Ship Size Categories

container ships by size

Container Ship Size Categories – Source: Wikipedia

Container Ships and the Supply chain

Container ships play a critical role in the global economy. They make the supply chain work. When a business turns raw materials into products, the supply chain is the process by which those products reach consumers. Even if those consumers are on the other side of the world.

More that 90% of all  products produced worldwide are carried across the oceans by ship. And the vast majority of those products are traveling on container ships or bulk carriers. It is true that air freight has increased in recent years. But the amount of goods transported by air is dwarfed by the amount carried by container ships as well as cargo carried by tankers, freighters, ocean liners, etc.

What Are the Largest Container Ships?

Importance of Container Ships

Container ships being loaded

The largest ships in the world are container ships. These ships are usually over 400 m in length, 100 m wide and 20 m deep. These gargantuan ships carry thousands of containers from one place to another across the world.

What are the largest container ships? Do you ever find your imagination wandering off to the far corners of the oceans as you watch a massive container ship plowing through the waves in an attempt to reach its destination on time? It’s clear that these vessels are extremely large, but how do they compare to existing structures or objects, and what is the largest container ship in existence?

The answer to the question really depends on which definition of “largest” you’d like to use. If you’re considering size in terms of gross registered tonnage (GRT), then the honor goes to Maersk Triple E Class, which has a whopping capacity of 160,000 GRT. And if you’re looking at deadweight tonnage (DWT), then you may instead be interested in Emma Maersk Class with a maximum DWT capacity of 156,678.2 tons. Norway-based shipping company Maersk Line is responsible for the production of both vessels.

According to the World Shipping Council, the largest container ship in the world is the CMA CGM Marco Polo. It is a French-flagged vessel that holds 18,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). It is 559 meters long, 69 meters wide, and weighs 160,000 gross tons. It was built in 2007.

How Fast do Container Ships Travel?

It’s a common belief that these large vessels, which can carry 10,000 to 19,000 containers at once, travel through the water at speeds of up to 35 knots (about 40 miles per hour). But this is far from the truth. In fact, a typical container ship will only reach speeds of about 25 knots (28 miles per hour) during its journey. Even though container ships are capable of traveling at higher speeds than most other ships, they rarely travel above 25 miles per hour. And the average speed of a container ship is 15 knots. This means that it travels about 22 miles per hour over the course of a day.

Jobs on Container Ships

jobs on container shipsJobs on container ships are interesting because you really do get to go from place to place around the world. It’s a great way to expand your horizons and get paid at the same time. And you can learn mostly on the job with just your high school diploma or GED. So, it’s important that you’re up for starting out at the bottom rung and working your way up.

Working on a cargo ship simply involves moving freight from one port to another around the world. Of course, there are a wide range of available jobs on a cargo ship. This starts with the captain and includes other officers, electricians, engineers, deck hands, and other highly skilled people. Working together they strive for a clean, safe and efficient environment to produce a smoothly running ship.


“No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned… a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company.” – Samuel Johnson


Job Requirements

It used to be that there were few qualifications required for marine industry jobs. But that has changed. You will need to be maritime certified for these jobs now. To be certified for an entry level position, you must be at least 18 years old, physically fit, drug free and pass a 5-day Able Seaman course. From there you can move up the ranks and take on more responsibilities as your experience level grows.

Engineers and skilled workers obviously need a background and additional training in their field above and beyond maritime certification.

The best place to search for maritime job offers is online. A few simple Google searches should put you on the right track.

Do Container Ships Lose Cargo?

Container ships have a reputation for losing cargo, sometimes in the middle of the ocean. While this is true, it’s not nearly as bad as you might think. The main reason for this reputation is that containers are often stacked on top of each other when they’re on the ship, and if one container tips over, they all tend to fall over. A tipping container can easily be empty, but it can also hold thousands of pounds of goods that spill out into the ocean.

The World Shipping counsel estimates that approximately 1,400 containers are lost at sea each year. Containers are not usually airtight and will sink. Some will sink immediately and others will float for a while. Reefer (refrigerated) containers will float longer as they are more airtight.

Unfortunately, containers falling off the top of a highly stacked container ship are often damaged, sink quickly and are seldom retrieved. But, if possible, fallen contains are sometimes retrievable.

How Many Container Ships Sink?

When you talk about container ships, the first thing that comes to mind is how big they are. These massive ships can transport thousands of shipping containers at a time across the world’s oceans, which sounds like an uncomplicated task. But it’s not – you see, these container ships go through all sorts of conditions that could potentially lead them to sink.

Because of their design and size, container ships are extremely difficult to maneuver when they get into trouble. They’re also designed for efficiency and cost-effectiveness, which means that they’re poorly equipped for emergencies. Because of this, there may be times when you find yourself on a sinking ship and there’s no way out.

For the decade between 2011 and 2020, there were 876 commercial vessels lost at sea. Of those, 348 were cargo ships. This is the most of any kind of ship. But does that mean they are the most dangerous ships on the oceans? Not necessarily. How many miles do cargo ships travel per sinking? And how would this compare to the mileage covered by the 120 fishing vessels that sunk during that same period for example? I was unable to discover that. Therefore, until that is known, who can say if container ships are the most dangerous?

How Many Container Ships Sink?What if you find yourself on a sinking ship? For starters, rest assured that you’re not alone! Thousands and thousands of people have found themselves on sinking ships at one point or another (even in modern times). The most important thing is to remain calm and alert and try your best to evacuate the vessel as quickly and safely as you can. The possibility exists that rescue is on the way!

Container ships are enormous, and carry a vast amount of goods in one go. However, sometimes in the middle of a massive ocean, something goes wrong. For example, on July 10th, 2002, the MV “SOLAS” sank in the Pacific Ocean during a large storm. The ship was carrying thousands of containers filled with cargo. Of the 30 crewmembers on board only 13 survived. The sinking was caused by a combination of factors: excessive speed through rough seas, failure to follow standard operating procedures and bad weather conditions. A contributing factor was also that the SOLAS had been built using substandard parts, which contributed to its final demise.

Do Container Ships Pollute?

The short answer to this question is yes, container ships do pollute. Without a doubt, they are part of a much bigger problem.

Make up your own mind. Do container ships cause an excessive amount of pollution? Some ships still burn what is known as burn bunker fuel, a heavy, viscous petroleum product. Many container ships, such as those of the Maersk Line, are now equipped with diesel electric engines and use low-sulfur marine gasoil (LSMGO) when at port or traveling in inland waterways. This fuel is markedly cleaner than bunker fuel and far less harmful when released into the environment. But yet, bunker fuel is still being burnt.

Obviously, the ship’s engines are the primary source of marine pollution from container ships. They pump exhaust straight into the air without any filtration or cleaning systems to remove toxins like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. However, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are multiple benefits to using LSMGO in lieu of bunker fuel. Most importantly, it reduces air pollution by over 90%! Furthermore, since LSMGO burns more efficiently than other types of oil products, it increases operating efficiency by up to 10%.

Container ships are the workhorses of the sea. And, despite their size, many people don’t realize how much of an impact these ships have on our environment. These massive vessels carry everything from cars to construction supplies to clothing in their holds. But what exactly is their impact on the environment? Container ships are adding approximately 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. This amounts to around 3% of the total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The shipping industry has set the goal of total decarbonization by 2050. This transition will be difficult because the current fleet of container ships are not built to run on green sustainable fuels. The fuels needed and the ships that will use those fuels will both need to be put into service by 2050 to meet these goals.

Although talking about container ships may not be the number one topic around most peoples dinner tables, they play a very important part in our lives. A high percentage of the products we take for granted, even at the dinner table, are only there because of container ships.

Related Information

25 Fun Facts About Containers and Container Ships

Container Ships – An Overview

Seatrade Maritime News – Containers

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