Deep sea call size – larger seagoing vessels

Research: 2016-2020

Ships being used for the transport of containers are increasing in size. What consequences does this have on the sailing routes and port activities?



Ships being used for the transport of containers are increasing in size. What consequences does this deployment of larger ships have on the shipping routes and the transport flows around the world, and on port activities. For example: instead of calling at multiple ports on a continent, larger vessels are more often limited to sailing back and forth between only a few specific ports, from one part of the world to another.
Rotterdam is ahead of other ports due to its location right by the sea and its strong infrastructure that can receive even the largest ships. How can we ensure that the call size, the number of containers unloaded by the ships in the port, continues to increase (port of choice)? What are parameters that influence the call size of seagoing vessels? How can terminals prepare for the ever-expanding ships?

Nowadays, the largest ships have a capacity of more than 20,000 TEU (the indication for the dimensions of containers, the abbreviation stands for Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit). The enormous growth of these ultra-large container vessels inevitably leads to other logistical concepts. What will that mean for cargo flows? Rotterdam is often the first call in the region for ships from other continents, which is an advantage over the competitors. Nevertheless the call size only increases to a limited extent and the ships continue to visit other ports as well.

There is a limited number of alliances of shipping companies that have a worldwide network. What determines their choices? What are logical routes for them? What is their planning? What other parameters influence the call size? For example: Is there a seasonal regularity? And what is the effect of the stagnation in the growth of container transport?

As taking measures may entail social costs, it needs to be determined which measures are justified.



  • Develop a strategy based on decision information, to approach various stakeholders in the process of developing terminals and related activities.
  • Insight into developments in transport routes and networks.
  • Insight into factors which shipping companies take into consideration when determining their routes: in particular financial drivers (costs).
  • Insight into the effects of the increasing ship sizes and larger volumes to be transported to the hinterland, such as peak load at the terminal on landside. Insight into what capacity is needed and how to spread the cargo flow across the available modalities.
  • Availability of decision information allows for determining a strategy and operation that can be the foundation on which the various parties in the development of the terminals and related activities can be approached.


  • A dynamic, unpredictable market causes shifts. Stagnant growth of containers, overcapacity, how will these still uncertain factors impact shipping companies and transport flows?
  • Participation of shipping companies is needed, but cooperation in the competitive market is not self-evident.


  • On the basis of insights and scenarios, terminals and other logistics service providers can have their strategy and operation match the consequences that the deployment of larger ships has.
  • The competitiveness of the port of Rotterdam is being strengthened.


Erasmus University Rotterdam, Hutchison Ports – ECT, Port of Rotterdam Authority.

‘Vessels, terminals and hinterland connections: three topics, many operators, and entirely intertwined. Learning to understand that system as a whole is crucial’

Bart van Riessen

Digital & Supply Chain Services, Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam

This project is part of the Smart Logistics roadmap. For more information about this project or this roadmap, please contact project developer Anique Kuijpers.