By Theo Notteboom
An analysis of liner services on the North Europe – Far East trade reveals that average vessel sizes have increased from 4,250 TEU in 1998 to 12,200 TEU in 2015. The number of liner services on the North Europe – Far East trade peaked in 2006 with over 30 regular services. Today just over 20 weekly services connect North Europe to the Far East. The combination of ever large container vessels combined with a relative decline in the number of ports of call per liner service results in larger call sizes.
The above chart shows that in 1998 a weekly call meant an annual volume of between 80,000 and 100,000 TEU per port of call, depending on the position of the respective ports in the schedule (i.e. first port of call, last port of call or somewhere in between). In 2015, these figures amount to between 235,000 and 330,000 TEU, or about three times higher than in 1998. A weekly Europe-Far East service operated with 10 to 11 vessels of 20,000 TEU is expected to generate an annual volume of between 385,000 to 540,000 TEU per North-European port of call. These figures exclude the volumes generated by possible feeder services connected to these deep-sea services in the framework of sea-sea transhipment activities.
In summary, there are less regular services between North Europe and the Far East and call sizes are significantly higher due to scale increases in vessel size. So, winning or losing a weekly call can have a huge impact on the annual volumes handled by Europe’s container ports. No wonder that port authorities and terminal operators are doing everything they can to accommodate carriers and their ever larger vessels.