The World's Largest Shipping Container Ships in 2023
By Christina Lena||Guides
International shipping makes up around 90% of the global trade in goods, transporting a vast variety of items around the world from port to port. The International Chamber of Shipping claims there are more than 50,000 container ships currently operating on the high seas.
COVID shutdowns had a massive impact on global shipping, idling container ships in ports with lockdowns and isolation for several weeks. This created a flow-on effect across many industries taking months to recoup, proving how integral international shipping is to the global economy.
Out of those 50,000 ships, there are some big container ships sailing the seas. And because bigger is always better (right?), we've put together a list of the ten largest container ships in the world.
Shipping container ships transport manufactured goods and products around the world. There are two standardised container sizes - 20-feet equivalent units and 40-feet equivalent units. These are universally abbreviated to TEU and FEU, respectively.
To provide some context, a 20 foot shipping container is just over 6 metres in length and a 40 foot container measures over 12 metres.
Container ships usually operate on regular schedules and set routes. They're known as 'liner services'.
This is a list of the biggest container ships in the world ranked by capacity, measured in TEU.
Ship #1 MSC Irina
This is currently the largest container ship in the world, with a capacity of 24,346 TEU. Her maiden voyage was in April 2023 from Guangzhou Port in China.
MSC Irina is measured to be 1,312ft in length, 200ft wide and is the first of six ships that will be build by Jiangsu Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group. Although similar size to other container ships in operation, the MSC Irina has the capacity to stack up to twenty-six 20-foot shipping containers deep.
This ship was built by Nantong COSCO KHI Ship engineering Co and was launched in 2023. She is 399.9 metres long and 61.3 metres wide, with a capacity of 24,188 TEU. This scale makes her the first of OOCL's vessels to surpass the 24,000 TEU limit.
This vessel is the first ship with a TEU capacity of over 24,000 to make her maiden voyage off the Hong Kong Port. She was deployed on the Asia-Europe Service LL2 and can carry up to 235,341 tonnes. The American Bureau of Shipping awarded the OOCL Spain 'Smart Ship' notations due to her use of the latest intelligent technology that optimises overall operations and fuel efficiency when sailing.
Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding designed MSC Tessa which is the first of four containerships from the series. She carries a total of 24,116 TEU and is the equivalent length shy of four AFL ovals, totaling 399.9 metres long and 61.5 metres wide.
This vessel was built with a hybrid scrubber, large diameter propellers, energy saving ducts and air lubrication to reduce drag and total energy consumption. This will mean she requires less fuel consumption and optimised EEDI energy efficiency.
Measuring at 400 metres long and 61.5 metres wide, the Ever Alot exceeds her sister ship, Ever Ace with a TEU capacity of 24,004. She uses the latest hydrodynamic optimisation technology to achieve higher speeds and less fuel.
She is now the largest of the seven in the Evergreen A class and is soon to be followed by Ever Aria once completed which will be a 24,000 TEU capacity ship when completed.
The Ever Ace has a 20-foot shipping container capacity of 23,992 TEU.
There are two other ships that are the same length as the Ever Ace, at 400m long (1,300ft). However, the Ever Ace is wider, at 61.5m (202ft) and slightly deeper. Her maiden voyage was in July 2021 and at the time of her launch, Ever Ace held the world record for the largest container ship. It is the first of 12 planned container ships of this size, built for Evergreen Marine. It currently sails under the Panama flag.
The HMM Algeciras is the first of twelve vessels which will be built by Daewoo Shipbuilding. The HMM Algeciras has a laulage capacity of 23,964 TEUs, just 28 containers less than the Ever Ace.
The vessel sails under the Panama flag as well and is just shy of 400 metres long (399.9), and has a depth of 33.2m. The liner service this vessel takes is between East Asia and Europe, with ports including Rotterdam, London Gateway, Singapore and Qingdao.
This ship runs a very close third to her sister ship, the HMM Algeciras. She set sail in 2020 on the 11th May.
HMM Oslo is 399.9 metres long and 61.50 metres wide with a carrying capacity of 23,756 TEU, 172 TEU less than the HMM Algeciras. She was built by Samsung Heavy Industries and currently runs under a Panama flag.
This big container ship 4th largest in the world, runs under a Panama flag and is operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, based in Geneva, Switzerland. When it launched in 2019, it was the largest container ship in the world, but it has been superseded by the above three since then.
She is almost 62 metres wide and 400 metres long, with a carrying capacity of 23,756 TEU. She was one of the first vessels able to transport 24 container rows side-by-side. This was due to her massive girth.
The ship is a sister of the MSC Gulsun and has a carrying capacity of 23,656 TEU. The MSC Mina is 400 metres in length and 61 metres wide.
This vessel was built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, which are one of the 'Big Three' shipbuilders of South Korea. She was delivered to the Mediterranean Shipping Company on the 18th July, 2019.
MSC Mina in transit. Source: Martin Kramer.
MSC Mina Container Ship. Source: The Maritime Economy Publications.
This mighty vessel, in one of the more interesting liveries of all container ships, entered operation on the 23rd of September, 2020. She is the first of 9 sister ships that will be the biggest vessels powered by LPG-Liquefied natural gas.
She has a carrying capacity of 23,000 TEU, is 400 metres long, 61 metres wide and 78 metres high. She is the largest container ship to sail under the French flag and services the French-Asia Line route.
Jacques Saade departing a location fully loaded. Source: Transportnet.se
Much like other ships on the list, the OOCL Hong Kong was the largest container ship at the time of delivery in 2017. OOCL Hong Kong is the largest of 6 G-Class vessels which were built. Her capacity is 21,413 TEU with a length of 399.87 metres and a girth of 58.8 metres.
She was built by the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje, South Korea. Her sister ships are all named after countries, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Indonesia. They all serve the East Asia to Northern Europe Line, through the Suez Canal.
COSCO Shipping Universe was the first in a line of 6 vessels of the Universe Class, all with stellar names; Universe, Nebula, Galaxy, Solar, Star and Planet.
The COSCO Shipping Universe has a massive capacity of 21,237 TEU, is 400 metres long and 58.6 wide. She was built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation in 2018 and then handed to the China Ocean Shipping Company Limited (COSTCO). The ship, and her sisters, run the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which links China to Europe and Africa, via the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. This ship flies the Hong Kong flag.
Cosco Shipping Universe on the open water. Source: Fleetmon
This ship was built by Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction in the Philippines and was launched in 2017. She is 400 metres long and 59 metres wide, with a capacity of 20,954 TEU.
The vessel was named after the French author and aviator Antoine De Saint Exupery, and she serves the French Asia Line 1 (FAL-1), which is the longest sea route between Asia and Northern Europe. She is extremely environmentally friendly, with a new type of engine and Becker-twisted fin to ensure a reduction in oil consumption. Plus, she has made a system of filters and UV lamps to treat her ballast water, to protect marine biodiversity.
CMA CGM Antoine De Saint Exupery. Source: Nick Lucas.
CMA CGM Antoine De Saint Exupery docked. Source: J&N Fotografia En Exteriores.
When she was first built by the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering group, this vessel had an official capacity of "only" 19,630 TEU. However, Maersk Line modified the design and broke the 20,658 TEU. Eleven ships of the Tripe E class of vessels have been built and delivered to Maersk. The tripe e designation comes from the three design principles for this ship;
Economy of scale.
Environmental Impact improvement.
The Madrid Maersk docked at a port. Source: Marine Link
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AAL Container Ship transporting SCF Containers and SCF ISO Tanks.