We encourage you to click on the photo above to get a better sense of the Christophe Colomb‘s truly gargantuan size. The recently christened cargo ship is one of the world’s largest, capable of carrying over 13,300 containers of goods. That’s more than six times the size of most container ships, which typically top out at 2,000 TEUs.
The Christophe Colomb is apparently a harbinger of things to come in the shipping industry, where companies are increasingly keen to order so-called “post Panamax” vessels. This trend is going strong despite the global economic crisis, which has caused average shipping rates to take a nosedive (as tracked by the ever-useful Baltic Dry Index).
We’re not well-versed enough in shipping minutiae to question the industry’s yen to expand carrying capacities even as demand slows. But we are fascinated by the issue of how that yen will affect us landlubbers. Post Panamax ships and their ilk aren’t just too big to fit through the Panama Canal, thereby complicating the trip from Asia to our Eastern Seaboard; they’re also too massive for many old standby ports, which will have to be dredged to keep pace with the seaborne goliaths. On top of that, ports that had the foresight to upgrade their container cranes now have the edge, since unload times are critical to preserving margins with shipping rates so low. The move toward ever-bigger ships will thus force a reshuffling of the maritime order, as ports blessed with deep water and forward-thinking management eclipse those that rested on their laurels.
The upshot is that the situation is looking especially rosy for Rotterdam, one of the world’s deepest water ports. The vogue for colossal container ships should be a boon to the city’s fortunes; count on Feyenoord going on a player buying spree in the near future.