Measuring 399.99m (1,312.3ft) long and 61.5m (202ft) wide, MSC Tessa can carry over 240,000 tonnes of cargo. It is the first ship to break that mark, as well as the first capable of carrying more than 24,000 containers.
Interestingly though, it’s nearly identical in length and width to dozens, if not hundreds, of previous record holders in this space, all the way back. Maersk Triple-E container ship from 2011 and beyond. And when it is replaced, probably by MSC Irina or MSC Loreto, both ordered by the same customer, these ships will carry a few hundred more containers, but they will not be physically larger either.
The size limit is not on the manufacturing side – after all, the largest ship in history, the Seawise Giant Supertankerwas 458.45 m (1,504.1 ft) long and 68.6 m (225.07 ft) wide, and was built in the late 1970s. Incidentally, the Giant was sunk in 1988 by Iraqi Air Force, then remarkably recovered and repaired for return to service in 1991, after which it remained in service in one capacity or another until the end of 2009.
But container ships are not like supertankers, which can deliver their cargo through a big pipe. Port facilities tend to place larger size limits on machines like the MSC Tessa, and current limits will likely remain about as large as these things can get until a useful number of ports in the world are building the earthly infrastructure to cope with something bigger.
So, as the total tonnage and capacity of containers increase, much of it is about optimizing ship design to squeeze more and more on board. Which makes it particularly impressive that in the 12 years since the Maersk Triple-E reigned supreme with its 18,000 container capacity, shipbuilders have managed to increase their capacity by a hair’s breadth. below 34%.
MSC Tessa is all about efficiency, as you can imagine given the numbers in play. Its main innovation in this regard is a bubble-based drag-reducing “air lubrication” system, which according to CSSC, reduces energy consumption, and therefore emissions, by up to 4%. It’s still a marine diesel, though, and with no proven viable replacements at this point, it’s unlikely we’ll see anything in the zero-emissions world come close to these behemoths anytime soon.
MSC expects three more like it by August, and CSSC says the second of the four has already completed sea trials. The four ships, according to Offshore Energycost MSC about $600 million in total.
See MSC Tessa in action (and under construction) in the video below.
The largest container ship in the world, the MSC Tessa