Panama losing to Suez Canal, Malacca-Max

Maersk Line will send vessels through Suez Canal that can carry as many as 9,000 20-foot boxes at a time, instead of using two 4,500-box-vessels through Panama Canal.   Shipping lines have cut costs, reduced speed of their fleet and sold some vessels to contend with freight rates that are below break-even levels. 

Malacca-Max: building higher container capacity - The cost per slot comes within the direct control of the shipping line. Hence the cost per slot/per mile is a very significant component in the whole cost equation which is dictated and determined by the shipping lines themselves.
With this core driving factor and the highly competitive nature of the shipping industry, it requires just one player to take the lead in building higher capacity and the other lines would follow when moving to the next “tier” of higher capacity.

Malacca-Max is a naval architecture term for the largest ship size that could safely sail through the straits of Malacca. At the initial stages of technical discussions on the design of these ships, the vessel dimensions that were mentioned were as follows:
Length overall: 470 metres
Beam: 60 metres
Draught: 20 metres
Cargo capacity: 18,000 teus
Service speed: 24 knots
The current design of the Malacca-Max is somewhat different from the above specifications and has now been confirmed as follows:
Length overall: 400 metres
Beam: 59 metres
Draught: 14.5 metres
Cargo capacity: 18,000 teus
Service speed: 19 knots
These changes obviously have been effected not only to meet many of the stringent rules and regulatory requirements with regard to operational efficiency, but more importantly to overcome constraints at various ports/terminals that these vessels will need to call in order to fill the massive capacity.
It is a known fact that building very high container ship capacity is not restrained by engineering or technical limitations, but by the fact that there are serious limitations in the shore side infrastructure.
It has also been acknowledged by the experts that the real challenge is not in building such large ships, but how to operate them efficiently whilst in the port; the most important requirement being to expedite the vessel discharge/load operation.

Because the Sunda Strait is even shallower at 20 metres (66 ft) minimum depth, a post-Malaccamax ship would need to use even longer alternate routes such as:
- Lombok Strait, Makassar Strait, Sibutu Passage and Mindoro Strait
- Ombai Strait, Banda Sea, Lifamatola Strait between the Sula Islands and Obi Islands, and Molucca Sea
- around Australia
or artificially excavated new routes such as:
- deepening the Strait of Malacca, specifically at its minimum depth in the Singapore Strait
- the proposed Kra Canal, which however would take much more excavation
Bulk carriers and supertankers have been built to this size, and the term is chosen for very large crude carriers (VLCC).[2] One recent design of container ship, approaching the Malaccamax size limit, is the Maersk Triple E class, with a capacity of 18,000 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).[3] Growth in demand for container transport could be leading to the creation of new terminals dedicated to such large ships.[4]
Similar terms of Panamax, Suezmax and Seawaymax are used for the largest ships capable of fitting through the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal and Saint Lawrence Seaway, respectively. Aframax tankers are those with a deadweight tonnage of 80,000 to 120,000.

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