Down Memory Lane …

“The last thing you want is for the port to act as a bottleneck. Instead, ports
must facilitate the rapid throughput of cargo … Many ports are now focused on
megaships, but you can’t handle all of the growing traffic in big TEU vessels.
Much of the movement toward larger ships and the ports’ competition for that
traffic involves ego and the corporate fanning of feathers …
“There is a significant impact on the transportation infrastructure when ships
with 6,000-plus TEUs call at a port. It places a great deal of pressure on the
terminal, as well as the connecting highways and rails. It creates a peaking
pressure, or spikes, in container throughput. Economically, megaships will
best be served by limiting the number of ports at which they call. You lose
the economies of scale when the load factors are not there.” — Commander
Jon S. Helmick (1997)
“It’s a good news/bad news story … The ideal is to bring the containers off the
ships and put them on rail. But the question is, what happens when vessels get
too large? We have seen the same thing in other modes — whether in the
length of trucks, railcars, flatcars, containers or planes. There comes a point
when large vessels create problems. We may be at that point now with ocean
“Larger ships mean fewer ports of call, which means shippers have to
transport containers over a longer distance to get to a port. There is also the
question of putting all of our eggs in one basket from a risk standpoint. What
if the ship breaks down? … Eventually, bigger ships may end up losing
business to smaller ships.” — Don Cameron (1997)
“Megaships are not going to be entering the Gulf of Mexico and won’t be
coming to the Port of New Orleans. They will be very expensive to operate
and will be required to move a lot of cargo. Now more than ever it will not be
economical to bring them into the Gulf. — Jim Reese (1997)
“Megaships strain the capacity of inland infrastructure, terminal operators and
rail and truck carriers. As terminals run out of space, ports will be required to
seek alternate ways of expanding their operations. The most logical and least
costly way to expand without straining the capacity of inland infrastructures,
terminal operators and rail and truck carriers is to establish smaller container
ports closer to end users.” — Nolan Gimpel (2003)
“Operational and commercial limitations … reduce the effectiveness of
megaships … Carriers will have a more difficult time filling these large
vessels, thereby cancelling out the economies of scale these ships are
supposed to produce … A limited number of ports are able to service these
larger vessels because of harbor depths … These vessels are unable to
accommodate importers and exporters who prefer more direct, less costly
service. The bigger the ship, the more transshipment and feedering you need,
and that costs money.”
— Neil Davidson (2004)
[Jean Godwin said it best of all. “It’s like trying to fit a 16-inch pipe into a 4-
inch opening.”]