On the road of containerships, ports succeed one to another: le Havre 2000, Miami, Panama Canal, San Francisco, Ulsan (South Korea), Shanghai, Hong-Kong, Suez Canal, Malta , the Piraeus, Marseille… Handling, Storage, transport, everything is globally standardized for these "boxes" that can be found on trains or trucks trailers, and which have revolutionized sea shipping. But since China has become the workshop of the world, the round of containerships around the world is growing. Asia imports raw materials transported by bulk carriers, and exports manufactured goods shipped by containers to the whole world. With more than 20 million boxes, Hong Kong’s port is the first in the world for containers traffic. To accommodate this growth the port already uses floating terminals anchored in the mooring area on which the containers are handled, stored and then transferred.
The disproportion also seems to affect all aspects of container ships. Everything is unconventional in their world, from the engine room onboard, to storage areas for containers on land passing through the bridge, where the containers are stacked on 15 to 20 levels. The giant container “Otello” of the CMA-CGM French company is among the largest in the world. Juggernaut over 300 meters long, 40 meters wide and 14 meters draft, carries 8500 boxes.
These boats require oversized ports usually located far from cities. In Shanghai for example, the port is 1h30 drive from the city. For crews, it makes calls little attractive. But it does not matter; stops must be as short as possible because it is where a ship is the most expensive. Today, 90% of international trade travel by sea. The global fleet with 50 ships of more than 7500 containers, and 165 are under construction. The run to gigantism of container ships, is due to the growth of global maritime transport: the average capacity increased from 2 000 boxes in the 1970s, to 6000, and cargo ships from 10,000 or 12,000 boxes are coming on the market. But beyond the 10 000 containers a serious global reorganization of the port infrastructures will be necessary. Cranes will have to be larger; quays will have to be deeper. We already construct around the world new facilities more appropriate in order to welcome these giants of the seas.
Texte : Anne Jankeliowitch