In 2011, the time span of the appearance of vessels averaging 13,000 TEU in South America was projected to be between 2016 and 2020 [see the study Sanchez and Perrotti: “Looking into the Future: Big Full Containerships and their Arrival to South American Ports” at the IAME Annual Conference].
The great news was that on December 18, 2015, TCBuen, the Colombian terminal belonging to the Port of Buenaventura, received the largest container vessel ever to have operated in South America: the Maersk Edinburgh. Part of the AC2 service, this vessel is intended to connect China and South Korea with the Pacific Coast of Latin America, has a capacity of 13,102 TEU and measures 367 meters long and 48.2 meters wide.
Whether by chance, or not, the arrival of the first 13k TEU vessel to Latin America virtually coincides with the opening of the new set of locks on the Panama Canal, through which it could smoothly sail.
“Looking into the Future…” warned of the urgent need for an efficient medium-term plan for the port industry and logistics that could maximize the benefits of its impact on the regional economy. These findings were derived from modelling techniques as well as estimates throughout several sample periods. They led to the conclusion that ship size evolution in South America is continuing to advance at paces similar to those of the main trade routes and that the time span for their arrival is progressively decreasing, as demonstrated by the Maersk Edinburgh’s arrival.
The design and construction of increasingly larger vessels causes a ‘cascading process’ which affects the organization of maritime transport networks, toward longer distances and less port calls for larger ships. This, in turn, creates hierarchies within the port network–from international hub ports, and local gateway ports, for example. In the meantime, vessel sizes show no sign of slowing down. In spite of difficulties ranging from a trade slow down, fleet overcapacity, and plummeting freight rates, this post-2009 crisis context has cast serious doubts upon the traditional approach to shipping cycles and will be the topic of an upcoming paper.
There was a resounding break between trade evolution and the containership fleet growing process. As reflected in the following chart, there is no direct link between the evolution of trade and fleet size. The chart also makes it possible to highlight that the evolution of trade is not the primary explanation for the growth of containership fleets.
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Looking back in the 2012: Sanchez, Ricardo J. and Daniel Perrotti (2012): Looking into the Future: Big Full Containership and their Arrival to South American Ports, Maritime Policy and Management Vol. 39, No. 6; pp 571-588. Taylor and Francis Ltd., Oxfordshire, UK.