It is also worth assessing how far the benefits of the economies of scale go. The financial benefit of increasing a vessel from 8,500TEU capacity to 10,800TEU vessels and again from 14,500TEU to 18,000TEU is clear (when vessels are fully utilised), but diminishing returns for vessels from 18,000TEU to 20,000TEU and >20,000TEU suggests that increasing the capacity of vessels beyond 24,000TEU is unlikely to provide the necessary, significant economic benefit required for lines to want to order still bigger tonnage.
While we don’t have actual newbuild prices for vessels of 22,000 or 24,000TEU capacity, some assumptions can be made based on the existing price of 18,000 and 20,000TEU vessels. It is extremely likely that the benefit of increasing a vessel from 20,000 to 22,000TEU capacity will only result in a combined “at sea” and “in port” benefit of US$0.6/TEU and a further combined “at sea and in port” diminishing returns of US$0.4/TEU for vessels of 24,000TEU capacity.
The increasing difficulty of ensuring that the vessels are full in order for lines to enjoy the benefits of scale, coupled with the physical and hinterland challenges identified above, suggests that vessels are unlikely to grow beyond 24-26,000TEU capacity in the future.