Officials at the Port of Felixstowe in the UK report that the terminal, operated by Hutchinson Ports earlier this week, handled what is believed to be the largest number of containers on a single ship in Europe. It comes as major shippers work to consolidate shipments to combat ongoing congestion at major container ports.
The 228,400 dwt MSC Diletta arrived at UK container port on January 7th and remained in dock until January 12th. According to Hutchinson Ports, a total of 23,773 TEU were handled during the port call. Built in 2021, the ship is part of MSC’s new class of ultra-large container ships with a total nominal capacity of 23,964 TEU. Registered in Liberia, the MSC Diletta is 1,211 feet long with a 200 foot beam.
“The size of container ships has been increasing for many years and with the growing demand for services at the Port of Felixstowe we are seeing an ever increasing exchange of containers,” said Robert Ashton, Operations Director at the Port of Felixstowe. “We’re also seeing a trend to consolidate cargo on fewer ultra-large ships.”
the MSC Diletta operates on the 2M Alliance Griffin/AE55 service from Far East Asia to Northern Europe. In mid-December, the group announced that it plans to consolidate sailings on this route and another to deal with the long waits ships have been having in major ports. As of 2022, 2M reported that it would temporarily suspend calls at Rotterdam from this route and extend port time at Felixstowe to handle a larger number of boxes. Similarly, another Far East route will begin omitting calls at Felixstowe, thereby increasing its time in Rotterdam.
In announcing the route change, 2M acknowledged it meant fewer calls in Europe but said it was the best response to reduce further disruption across the network. They began shifting bookings between the two routes and used Yantian in China to tranship containers between ships according to the new schedules.
Felixstowe said it welcomed 2M’s decision to consolidate departures and looked forward to working with the companies at the time of the current high demand for Far East imports to the UK in early 2021, Maersk, one of the 2M Alliance members, confirmed that some of his larger ships skipped Felixstowe due to long waits. They said they had started unloading UK-bound crates at ports across the continent and transhipping them onto feeder ships bound for Felixstowe.
Hutchinson also highlighted ongoing efforts to further improve the port’s ability to handle the world’s largest container ships. The Harwich Haven Authority is dredging the main access channel to increase the depth from 47.5 feet to 52.5 feet. Work started last year and is expected to be completed in 2023. The port is also increasing the depth at its deep water berths. Berth 7 was deepened to 54 feet in 2021 and Berth 6 will also be dredged to 54 feet in 2022. They also plan to increase the depth at berths 8 and 9 to 59 feet.