Record-breaking containership arrives at Port of Hamburg

Germany’s leading seaport on the tidal River Elbe is over 100 km from the North Sea. That’s a challenging situation for any of today’s mega-containerships. But when the tides are right, even the world’s biggest vessels can reach the Port of Hamburg. In the early hours of 15 March, the latest floating record-breaker docked safely at Hamburg’s Burchardkai. The CMA CGM ANTOINE DE SAINT EXUPÉRY is 400 metres long, has a breadth of 59 metres and a cargo-carrying capacity of 20,766 TEU. Although the Hong Kong shipping line OOCL has six containerships of identical design with an even higher capacity (21,400 TEU) and the ANTOINE DE SAINT EXUPÉRY is thus “only” seventh in the world rankings, it is actually the number one in tonnage terms at 217,673 GRT.

This latest giant of the seas has beaten the record set only in August 2017 when the MUNICH MAERSK, a 20,568-TEU containership, arrived in the Port of Hamburg. The arrival of the new record-holder comes in a momentous year. Nearly 50 years ago, the first-ever containership, the AMERICAN LANCER, docked in the Port of Hamburg on 31 May 1968. By today’s standards she was a mere minnow at 1,200 TEU but its arrival heralded in a new era in the Port Hamburg’s long history. The ANTOINE DE SAINT EXUPÉRY is expected to be unloading around 7,000 containers containing electronic or textile goods and taking on another 4,000 containers full of chemical products or machine components. Half a century ago, an 18-man stevedoring crew would have handled around 80 tonnes of general cargo in their eight-hour shift. Nowadays, a nine-man team can load up to 2,000 tonnes of containerised cargo in the same time. The first container bridge at Hamburg’s Burchardkai was able to handle 12-18 containers per hour; today’s container bridges manage three times as many. The ANTOINE DE SAINT EXUPÉRY heads back down the River Elbe on 17 March.

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