Record ships approaching

A world port comes with world records. In the coming weeks, three different ships will take the title of largest container ship ever to call at Port of Antwerp-Bruges from each other. And there is a world record among them...

Three in a row

On 20 April, the container ship MSC Tessa will sail to the MPET terminal in Antwerp. It is the first ship ever with a capacity bigger than 24 000 TEU to call at the port. TEU stands for Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit and is the standard size for a container. A normal 40-foot container is equivalent to two TEUs. MSC Tessa has a total capacity of 24 116 TEU.

That record will only stand for a week, as OOCL Spain will dock in Zeebrugge on 26 April. With a capacity of 24 188 TEU, it can call itself the Port of Antwerp-Bruges record ship for a month. 


Because around 26 May, MSC Loreto will sail into Antwerp. It is not only the largest ship ever to call at the port, it is currently the largest container ship in the world. A title it shares with its sister ship MSC Irina. The record in Port of Antwerp-Bruges will probably remain at 24 346 TEU for a while. But then again, not for too long, because...

Big, Bigger, Ultra Large

The history of container ships consists of records that are quickly broken.


In 1955, US entrepreneur Malcolm McLean decided to ship goods, not loose, but bundled. To that end, he invented the container. Thanks to its standard dimensions, it is easier and more efficient to transport goods. To do so, he immediately converted a ship into the first container ship.


In 1967, the first container ship docked in Antwerp. It had a capacity of 700 TEU, or room for 350 40-foot containers.


In the 1970s, the first ships with more than 1000 TEU appeared. Numbers grew steadily. The 10 000 TEU mark was broken around 2005, and in 2017 the first Ultra Large Container Vessel sailed with more than 20 000 TEU. That's more than 10 000 containers on one ship!

Since then, things have continued at a furious pace. Shipping companies are mainly looking for ways to stack higher and more efficiently. All the largest container ships have been staying below the 400-metre limit in length for some time now. This is due to various factors such as insurance issues, safety and smooth traffic in important canals like the Suez Canal, the size of shipyards, the size of existing port docks around the world, etc.


How long will the MSC Loreto retain her current title? If recent history teaches us anything, she will have to relinquish that crown soon…

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