Maritime Topics On Stamps :
Container ships !

Modern containerships are perhaps the most spectacular ship type developed in maritime history. These ships have no 'forest' of masts and derricks. The silhouette is dominated by many containers in front of and sometimes behind the small superstructure containing the bridge. These ships are constructed to carry thousands and thousands of boxes, all the same size, whose content nobody can see. These ships appear in ports all over the world, stopping only for one or two days, quickly loading and unloading full or empty containers and sail on to arrive dead on time at the next port.

During the Second World War and the Korean and Vietnam wars the Americans used container-like giant packing cases to transport and warehouse supplies. The father of the container was the American Malcolm McLean. He developed these boxes and founded the first container company, the "Sea Land". The history of present containers began at 26th April, 1956, when a rebuild tanker left Newark with 58 container with destination Houston. In the same year the first container service was opened between the USA and Puerto Rico. The first vessel loaded with containers docked at an European port in 1966, also from the US. The first West German container ship (a Hapag-Lloyd vessel) sailed from Hamburg in 1968.

A traditional / conventional vessel required between 8 to 10 days to load or unload 10,000 tons of general cargo. A containership can handle the same volume in 2 days within Europe and in 3 or 4 days on other continents. This allows loaded containerships to make more and longer voyages per year and thus are more economic to operate than conventional general cargo freighters.
Nevertheless this principle can only work, if there is enough cargo to load and unload at both ports of a voyage.
A container is an internationally standardised packing box for cargo in which goods can be safely stowed away, stored and transported. It is designed for the most efficient use of space and for any type of transportation, be it by road, rail or sea. The different sizes of container have been fixed by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). The twenty-feet container is the basic unit, length 20 feet, width 8 feet, height 8 feet 6 inches. It can be loaded with 15 to 20 tons of cargo. The abbreviation TEU means Twenty-feet Equivalent Units. The other size is the forty-feet container, Forty-feet Equivalent Unit (FEU) and can be loaded with up to 30 tons of cargo. The special 45 feet container is under construction. Additionally there are more special designs for general purpose containers, hardtop containers, flat-rack containers, bulk containers, reefer containers, ... etc. etc.

To reach this high effiency there must be an immense technical support around the container transportation. The producer stowed the cargo into the container, maybe far inland, and the receiver is the first to open the container again.
You can see the container not only on a ship or in a port, but on the road on special-trucks, on special train-wagons or on inland-lighters as well. On this stamp you see the loading procedure via a container-bridge. On the left is a straddle-carrier which brings the container to the ship. Then we have stacking cranes and huge forklifts for handling the boxes. And last but not least: the office with computer assistance.

A lot of ships have cranes to unload at ports without container-bridges. This is a 'semi-container' ship with a rigg like conventional freighters. It has special cargo holds for containers and some for general cargo without cell-guides. Here you can see a ship with a typical gantry-crane. The gantry crane can roll from the bridge to the bow. Some of them have jibs to unfold over each side or to turn around 360 degrees. At the stern we have 'roll-on/roll-off' equipment.

The term 'Generation' exists not only for mankind but for goods, research and development as well. In business it was created by marketing departments to support sales. Above you see the 'Hamburg Express', a container-ship of the so-called 'third generation'. The vessel was built in 1972, length 287 m, breadth 32 m, capacity 2950 TEU. Generations of ships are measured by their capacity: first generation 1000 TEU, second generation 2000 TEU, third generation 3000 TEU, fourth .... etc.
The German dockyard 'Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft' is the worldwide business leader in the area of development and construction of container ships. Many postmarks and cachets show history in container-ship-building. 1972 the HDW dockyard built a series of 9 third generation-type ships for the British OCL, the Scottish Ben Line and the French Messageries Maritimes (above, TCS means Turbine Container Ship). All these ships stowed 2950 TEU and were able to reach 30 knots on the Far-East trade routes.

The development of the so-called 'Ship of the Future' started 1985 with the 'Norasia Samantha'. 30 companies were working on this project for 12 years. Today this type is past. With a length 162 m, breadth 28 m, capacity 1940 TEU's these ships had other strongpoints, e.g. economizing on oil-consumption, reduced crew and increased safety.

In 1988 three ships were delivered for the US American President Lines. The capacity was 4340 TEU's, length 275 m and the sensational breadth of 39 meter! An unwritten law of maritime construction says, a ship must be able to pass the locks of the Panama Channel and thus have a breadth of no more than 33 meters. But APL developed a new transportation net without using the Panama channel. This marked the creation of the new 'Post-Panmax' type.

The next chapter in container ship development was the 'Open-Top' category, firstly introduced in 1994. These ships were advanced versions of the 'Ship of the Future'. Open-Top means no hatch-covers, open cargo holds and an effective pump system for stabilisation purposes. These ships were build in a 3420 TEU's and a 4140 TEU's version. The last version had a length of 232 meter, breadth 32 m, speed 22 knots and only 16 crewmembers. The 'Norasia Sharjah' belongs to them.

On this postmark you see the 'HDW Generation 6000'. As this postmark looks very simple you can see a 'stowage sample' of the 6800 type below. With a length of 305 m, breadth 40 m (Post-Panmax), depth 16 m, speed 24 kn, capacity 6800 TEU's and an 'ship-operation-center' for one-man operation. The transport efficienty index (capacity x speed) is 1142, a measurement for turnaround services.

A container carrier of the Chinese Hanjin line. A container ship of the South African lines entering the port of Cape Town.
This page was written in 1998. Here one supplement of June 2004:
Already in 1997 the Howaldt dock yard (HDW) had a project 'Jumbo Container Vessel' of (JCV) with 8,152 TEU calculated. At the beginning of the year 2004 there were already about 100 container ships with a capacity of 8,000 TEU in use. The Samsung shipyard builds a container ship with a capacity of 9.200 TEU, commissioning day in 2005. Samsung will deliver a 9,600 TEU ship in 2006. The measures L*B*T are 334*45,6*13 meters. Lloyd's Register has a study for an 'Ultra Large Container Ship ' (ULCS) with 12,500 TEU presented. And a Malacca-Max model exists with the specifications 400*60*21 meters for a floor space of 18,000 TEU. But for such ships with a depth of 21 meters there are no ports up to today.

Supplement May 2006:
The largest container ships have a capacity of 9.000 to 9.500 TEU. The classification society German Lloyd has designed, together with the yard Hyundai Heavy Industries a vessel for 13.440 TEU. The specifications: Length 382m, beam 54,2m, tdw 153,000 and with two engines, two propellers, speed 25.5 kn.

Supplement January 2007:
Up to this date the largest container ship of the world is the "Emma Maersk". The specifications: Length 397.7m, beam 56.4m, draft 16m, side height 30.2m, GRT 170,794, tdw 158,200 TEU 11,000 official but insider speak of 14,500 TEU, speed 26 kn, crew 13 men.
The Malacca-Max model (see above) is in discussion again.

Generations of Container Ships
GenerationYear TEULength m Beam m Draft m
1.1968 750 180 25 9
2.1972 1,500 225 29 11.50
3.1980 3,000 275 32 12.50
4.1987 4,500 275 39 13.50
5.1997 5,500 325 41 14,10
6.1999 8,000 + 345 43 14.50
7.2006 13,640 398 56 16

© Bjoern Moritz, all rights reserved.

  up - top
  next page
  menu page
  home, first page