If you do not already know them, the following nuggets of information will help put the scale of our industry in perspective.
The number of fully cellular container ships operating today stands at about 4,990 ships with a combined capacity of about 17 million TEUS (as of November 2013).
Since 1987 the average vessel size of container ships has more than doubled. Today’s largest container ship can carry about 18,000 TEUs.
The carrying capacity of today’s largest container vessels is equivalent to no less than a 44 miles long freight train.
A large container ship engine has about 1,250 times more power than a family car and is similar in size to a typical six-story building.
Standard containers measure 20 ft or 40 ft in length, the first of these providing the industry's standard capacity measurement 'TEU' (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit).
The simple 'dry van' container is estimated to account for about 90% of all containers, but there are various types catering for particular kinds of cargo. 'High cube' containers offer greater height, while other designs include open top, refrigerated, tank, open rack, gondola and flatrack. Most container ships can carry containers of mixed heights and types.
The humble 20 ft (TEU) container weighs about 2 tonnes when empty.
A standard container can hold about 24, 900 tin cans or about 48,000 bananas. A 40 ft container may hold more than 12,000 shoeboxes.
Between 1982 and 2005 containerised cargo trade grew three and a half times faster than world GDP and 40% faster than international trade overall.
The equivalent of about 124 million TEUs are being moved around the world by ship in a year (estimated loaded containers carried in 2009).
Well over 1 billion tonnes is carried internationally in containers. By volume this accounts for about a quarter of all seaborne dry cargo. However, container ships transport half of the total value of global goods moved by sea.
About half of seaborne trade in refrigerated produce is now carried by container ships in ‘reefer’ containers.
The typical cost of transporting a 20 ft container from Asia to Europe carrying over 20 tonnes of cargo is about the same as the economy airfare for a single passenger on the same journey.
The above information has been selected from a number of different industry and publicly available sources: AXS-Alphaliner; ‘The Box’, by Marc Levinson; Container Management; Containerisation International; the Container Shipping Information Service (at www.shipsandboxes.com); Costamare Shipping; Clarkson Research Services; Drewry Shipping Consultants; Lloyd’s List; Shipping Facts; the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Wikipedia.