Adjustment of the navigation channel on the Lower and Outer Elbe: Ultra-large vessels

Adjustment of the navigation channel on the Lower and Outer Elbe: Ultra-large vessels

Development of ship sizes

In an unprecedented sequence of developmental leaps, containerships have become larger and are still doing so. The reason for this is primarily commercial pressure: Fuel costs and stiff competition between shipping companies give an advantage to those able to transport containers at the lowest cost with the biggest ship.

The world’s largest containerships are currently over 400 metres long and can transport over 20,000 TEU. And as shipping lines’ order books show, more and more giants are being added. Especially on the intercontinental trade routes between Europe and East Asia, enormous quantities of cargo make the deployment of ever larger ships pay. Hamburg is one of the most significant European destination ports for the trade in goods between Europe and China.


    • Development of ship sizes
    • Development of ship sizes

ULV calls in Hamburg  

Ship orders by shipping companies show that the proportion of containerships with maximum design drafts of 14.50 metres and more is growing disproportionately. This trend is confirmed by the rising number of calls by mega-containerships in the Port of Hamburg.

Since the first calls in the port by vessels with a slot capacity of over 18,000 TEU, the total number of these has tripled. In 2017 Hamburg alone received 102 calls by ULCVs in the size bracket 18,000 to 20,000+ TEU, a rise of 52.2 percent.


Adjustment of port infrastructure

The Port of Hamburg is optimally prepared to handle extraordinarily large vessels, or ships with a length of more than 330 metres and/or a breadth of more than 45 metres, and is constantly adjusting its infrastructure to market requirements.

For instance, the Port of Hamburg offers four high-performance container terminals that are among the world’s most modern and able to handle the largest containerships. In August 2016, for example, three additional container gantry cranes of the latest generation were delivered to HHLA Container Terminal Burchardkai (CTB), Hamburg’s largest container handling facility. Today HHLA has eight such gantry cranes at CTB. These enable CTB to clear vessels with a capacity of 20,000 TEU and rows of 24 containers at two berths. HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort is also receiving three additional container gantry cranes for handling mega-ships of the newest generation. From the end of 2017, CTT will be operating five container gantry cranes for clearing vessels with a capacity of 20,000 TEU and more.

An additional example of the improvement of conditions for mega-ships calling in the Port of Hamburgs is the enlargement of the waterside access to HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort. With this, the feasible tide time-windows for arrival and sailing of mega-ships are extended. In addition, the turning circle for access to Waltershofer docks with CTB and Eurokai container terminals is being extended from 480 to 600 metres.