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Top 10 biggest container vessels

The Empire State Building is four floors (or decks) shorter than the largest container vessel in the world. Today, more than 5,000 comparable container ships travel the oceans of the world, transporting the majority of the global population’s consumer products from their manufacturers to their intended markets.

These mighty vessels are arguably the driving force behind the global economy, but just 60 years ago they did not exist. In 1956, Malcolm McLean changed the cargo shipping industry forever by introducing the idea of container shipping. Since then, the arms race to build the biggest ships has been raging on, driving the shipbuilding industry to create the biggest ships allowed by science and the boundaries of physics. Today, the world’s largest container ships are easily the biggest vehicles ever constructed. Here is our countdown of the ten largest container ships operating today.

10 | Emma Maersk

Launched in 2006, the Emma Maersk was the world’s largest container ship in 2010. Along with seven sister vessels, the ship was part of the largest container fleet at the time. The vessel has a total TEU capacity of 14,770, a tonnage of 170,794 and usually carries a crew of 13-30 people. The Emma Maersk is operated by A. P. Moller-Maersk Group. The Emma Maersk was the first E-class container ship and marked the end of massive container ships able to approach 30 knots as manufacturers began to value carrying capacity over speed.

9 | CMA CGM Vasco De Gama

CMA CGM (which translates as “French Maritime Freighting Company – General Maritime Company”) originally intended to name this Explorer class ship after the American politician Benjamin Franklin. However, the organisation decided shortly before its launch to give it a name in keeping with the theme of historically significant explorers of the region which began with the naming of the Marco Polo. Propelled by a single shaft, screw propeller, the Vasco De Gama travels at a top speed of 22.9 knots. With a TEU capacity of 17,859 and a tonnage of 178,228, the ship’s current port of registry is London, England. 

8 | CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin

Christened in 2015, CMA CGM’s Benjamin Franklin finally took the coveted name that its predecessor was denied. At a length of 399.2m, this Explorer-class vessel was declared the world’s largest container ship in December of 2015. Like the Vasco De Gama, the Benjamin Franklin is driven by a single shaft, screw propeller and is capable of traveling at 22.9 knots. The vessel has a tonnage of 178,228 and a capacity of 18,000 TEU. It carries a crew of 27 people.

7 | Madison Maersk

This Triple E class vessel was built by South Korean shipbuilder, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and boasts an impressive 1,800 reefer plugs. The Triple E class of ships was designed around innovations boosting economy of scale, energy efficiency and ecological impact. It achieves this using two MAN engines which drive the ship at a cruising speed of 16 knots. It represented such a step forward in cost of ownership that 31 ships of its kind were subsequently planned for construction. The vessel has a TEU capacity of 18,200 and tonnage of 165,000. It is operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk. 

6 | CMA CGM Marco Polo

In November 2012, the UK-registered Marco Polo officially became the world’s largest container vessel. It is an Explorer-class vessel owned by CMA CGM. Its reign as the largest container ship was cut short just three months after its launch by the Maersk Triple E (EEE), which comes fourth on this list. With its single shaft, fixed-pitch propulsion, it is capable of traveling at 25.1 knots: a speed that its heavier successors can no longer achieve due to their extreme size and carrying capacity. The vessel has a tonnage of 175,343 and 18,270 TEU. It is operated by a crew of 27. 

5 | MSC New York

This American vessel boasts a length of 399m and a height of 54m. Currently sailing under the Panamanian flag, the New York has a gross tonnage of 176,490 and bears the classic white, black, and red colour scheme. The New York, operated by MSC, can carry 18,270 TEU.

4 | Magleby Maersk

The largest Triple E class ship, the Magleby Maersk is owned and operated by A. P. Moller-Maersk – which earned the distinction of being named the largest container ship organisation in the world. With its eye-catching sky-blue profile, the ship benefits from the signature innovations of the Triple E class which make it an especially economical vessel to operate. The vessel has a TEU capacity of 18,340 and a tonnage of 165,000.

3 | MV Barzan

The Barzan is the first in a planned series of six ships of its kind, and was completed in July 2015. Its current home port is in South Korea. It was built by Hyundai Samho to have the lowest per-container ratio of carbon emissions. Indeed, this impressive ship boasts a much lower emissions rate than the Maersk Triple E, making it a significant accomplishment in this regard. With a crew of 35, the ship carries 18,800 TEU and a tonnage of 195,636. It is operated by the United Arab Shipping Company (UASC).

2 | CSCL Globe- MV CSCL

The first of five ships in its class, the CSCL Globe was built to run Asia-Europe trade routes. The Globe was launched in November 2014, with a record-breaking max capacity of 19,100 TEU. Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea, the ship was completed in nine months. Currently operated by the China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) and manned by 37 people, the vessel has a tonnage of 195,630.

1 | MSC Oscar

MSC Oscar and its two sister ships, the MSC Zoe and the MSC Oliver compose the largest fleet of three ever to sail, period. Oscar was recognised as the world’s largest container ship in January of 2015. Powered by a 11S90MW-C diesel engine, Oscar is capable of a top speed of 22.8 knots. This magnificent ship gets her name from the son of the president and CEO Diego Aponte. Originally intended to support 18,400 TEU, Oscar turned out to have a much greater capacity on completion and can now carry up to 19,224. It also has a tonnage of 197,636 and is manned by a crew of 35, under the Mediterranean Shipping Company. 

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10 | Emma Maersk

Launched in 2006, the Emma Maersk was the world’s largest container ship in 2010. Along with seven sister vessels, the ship was part of the largest container fleet at the time. The vessel has a total TEU capacity of 14,770, a tonnage of 170,794 and usually carries a crew of 13-30 people. The Emma Maersk is operated by A. P. Moller-Maersk Group. The Emma Maersk was the first E-class container ship and marked the end of massive container ships able to approach 30 knots as manufacturers began to value carrying capacity over speed.

9 | CMA CGM Vasco De Gama

CMA CGM (which translates as “French Maritime Freighting Company – General Maritime Company”) originally intended to name this Explorer class ship after the American politician Benjamin Franklin. However, the organisation decided shortly before its launch to give it a name in keeping with the theme of historically significant explorers of the region which began with the naming of the Marco Polo. Propelled by a single shaft, screw propeller, the Vasco De Gama travels at a top speed of 22.9 knots. With a TEU capacity of 17,859 and a tonnage of 178,228, the ship’s current port of registry is London, England. 

8 | CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin

Christened in 2015, CMA CGM’s Benjamin Franklin finally took the coveted name that its predecessor was denied. At a length of 399.2m, this Explorer-class vessel was declared the world’s largest container ship in December of 2015. Like the Vasco De Gama, the Benjamin Franklin is driven by a single shaft, screw propeller and is capable of traveling at 22.9 knots. The vessel has a tonnage of 178,228 and a capacity of 18,000 TEU. It carries a crew of 27 people.

7 | Madison Maersk

This Triple E class vessel was built by South Korean shipbuilder, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and boasts an impressive 1,800 reefer plugs. The Triple E class of ships was designed around innovations boosting economy of scale, energy efficiency and ecological impact. It achieves this using two MAN engines which drive the ship at a cruising speed of 16 knots. It represented such a step forward in cost of ownership that 31 ships of its kind were subsequently planned for construction. The vessel has a TEU capacity of 18,200 and tonnage of 165,000. It is operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk. 

6 | CMA CGM Marco Polo

In November 2012, the UK-registered Marco Polo officially became the world’s largest container vessel. It is an Explorer-class vessel owned by CMA CGM. Its reign as the largest container ship was cut short just three months after its launch by the Maersk Triple E (EEE), which comes fourth on this list. With its single shaft, fixed-pitch propulsion, it is capable of traveling at 25.1 knots: a speed that its heavier successors can no longer achieve due to their extreme size and carrying capacity. The vessel has a tonnage of 175,343 and 18,270 TEU. It is operated by a crew of 27. 

5 | MSC New York

This American vessel boasts a length of 399m and a height of 54m. Currently sailing under the Panamanian flag, the New York has a gross tonnage of 176,490 and bears the classic white, black, and red colour scheme. The New York, operated by MSC, can carry 18,270 TEU.

4 | Magleby Maersk

The largest Triple E class ship, the Magleby Maersk is owned and operated by A. P. Moller-Maersk – which earned the distinction of being named the largest container ship organisation in the world. With its eye-catching sky-blue profile, the ship benefits from the signature innovations of the Triple E class which make it an especially economical vessel to operate. The vessel has a TEU capacity of 18,340 and a tonnage of 165,000.

3 | MV Barzan

The Barzan is the first in a planned series of six ships of its kind, and was completed in July 2015. Its current home port is in South Korea. It was built by Hyundai Samho to have the lowest per-container ratio of carbon emissions. Indeed, this impressive ship boasts a much lower emissions rate than the Maersk Triple E, making it a significant accomplishment in this regard. With a crew of 35, the ship carries 18,800 TEU and a tonnage of 195,636. It is operated by the United Arab Shipping Company (UASC).

2 | CSCL Globe- MV CSCL

The first of five ships in its class, the CSCL Globe was built to run Asia-Europe trade routes. The Globe was launched in November 2014, with a record-breaking max capacity of 19,100 TEU. Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea, the ship was completed in nine months. Currently operated by the China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) and manned by 37 people, the vessel has a tonnage of 195,630.

1 | MSC Oscar

MSC Oscar and its two sister ships, the MSC Zoe and the MSC Oliver compose the largest fleet of three ever to sail, period. Oscar was recognised as the world’s largest container ship in January of 2015. Powered by a 11S90MW-C diesel engine, Oscar is capable of a top speed of 22.8 knots. This magnificent ship gets her name from the son of the president and CEO Diego Aponte. Originally intended to support 18,400 TEU, Oscar turned out to have a much greater capacity on completion and can now carry up to 19,224. It also has a tonnage of 197,636 and is manned by a crew of 35, under the Mediterranean Shipping Company. 

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