What is a Containership?
Container ships are self-propelled ships that carry cargo in specific shipping containers built to standardized measurements. Standardization, known as containerization, allows for the stacking of intermodal steel containers to be uniform on the ship. Containerization means a more efficient transfer to and from the ships as well as the loading and unloading of the containers. Container ships come in varying sizes determined by their capacity and that capacity is measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). TEUs are used because the standard containers are usually eight feet square and either 20 or 40 feet in length. The smallest container ship carries about 2,000 TEUs. Currently, the largest can carry up to 18,000 TEUs but there are plans to build ships with a greater capacity. Special containerships have been built to accommodate sailing through the Panama and Suez Canals. Many of the world’s ports are not capable of handling the larger capacity ships. The largest ship to dock at a U.S. port (the Port of Virginia’s International Gateway) was a 13,000 TEU ship. It is important to note that container ships transporting cargo from a U.S. port to another U.S. port, must be compliant with the Jones Act. They have to be built in the U.S., registered in the U.S., owned by a U.S. citizen, and manned by a crew of U.S. citizens. There are also specific regulations for cargo financed, furnished or procured by the U.S. government found at 46 CFR Part 381. At least 50 percent of the tonnage of the government-generated cargo must be carried on U.S.-flagged ships. If the cargo is military, it must be carried on U.S.-flagged ships exclusively.