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The World's Largest Container Shipping Companies



This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Niall McCarthy


Progress is finally being made in attempts to free a huge container ship that has been blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week. Tugboats, dredgers and excavators managed to partially refloat the 200,000 Ever Given though its bow is reportedly still stuck in the bank of the canal. Engineers will continue attempting to fully dislodge the vessel later on Monday. That means an end to the saga is finally in sight with more than 360 ships delayed and the potential value of total goods held up as high as $9.6 billion.


Over the past few days, many vessels decided to avoid taking any chances with further delays and circumvent the Suez Canal by navigating around the Cape of Good Hope on the Southern tip of Africa. For ships traveling between Asia and Europe, that involves a 5,500-mile diversion which takes seven to 10 days longer and a much higher fuel bill. The fact that ships are going on such a detour underscores their importance as the lifeblood of global trade. With the spotlight firmly on international container shipping over the past week, which companies transport the most cargo? The industry is not a monopoly and several key players dominate it.


A real-time ranking by Alphaliner shows that Denmark's APM Maersk has the largest fleet of container ships as well as the highest container capacity of any shipping company. It has 713 ships in operation as of late March 2021 with a collective TEU of 4.1 million. TEU stands for twenty-foot equivalent unit or a standard 6.1-meter-long shipping container. Swiss international cargo company MSC has the second highest TEU capacity with about 3.9 million while COSCO and CMA-CGM follow with approximately three million each. The owner of the ill-fated Ever Given, the Evergreen Line, has 197 ships on its books with a TEU capacity of 1.3 million.


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