Container Facts

If you are not already familiar with container shipping, the following nuggets of information will help put the scale of our industry in perspective.

  • The number of fully cellular container ships operating today stands at about 5,461 ships with a combined capacity of about 24.6 million TEUs (as of August 2021).

  • Since 2000 the average vessel size of container ships has more than doubled. Today’s largest container ship can carry about 24,000 TEUs.

  • The carrying capacity of today’s largest container vessels is equivalent to no less than a 44 miles long freight train.

  • A large container ship engine has about 1,250 times more power than a family car and is similar in size to a typical six-story building.

  • Standard containers measure 20 ft or 40 ft in length, the first of these providing the industry's standard capacity measurement 'TEU' (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit).

  • The simple 'dry van' container is estimated to account for about 90% of all containers, but there are various types catering for particular kinds of cargo. 'High cube' containers offer greater height, while other designs include open top, refrigerated, tank, open rack, gondola and flatrack. Most container ships can carry containers of mixed heights and types.

  • The humble 20 ft (TEU) container weighs about 2 tonnes when empty.

  • A standard container can hold about 24,900 tin cans or about 48,000 bananas. A 40 ft container may hold more than 12,000 shoeboxes.

  • Between 2000 and 2017 containerised cargo trade grew three times and about one and a half times faster than world GDP.

  • The global port throughput in 2017 was around 780 million TEUs.

  • Well over 1 billion tonnes is carried internationally in containers. By volume this accounts for about a quarter of all seaborne dry cargo. However, container ships transport half of the total value of global goods moved by sea.

  • About half of seaborne trade in refrigerated products is now carried by container ships in ‘reefer’ containers.

  • The typical cost of transporting a 20 ft container from Asia to Europe carrying over 20 tonnes of cargo is about the same as the economy airfare for a single passenger on the same journey.

The above container industry facts and figures have been compiled solely for the purpose of providing indicative information about the wider shipping industry and Costamare cannot guarantee the accuracy of any or all of the information provided, and can assume no responsibility to keep the information current or up to date. See also our 'Terms of Use'.

The above information has been selected from a number of different industry and publicly available sources: AXS-Alphaliner; ‘The Box’, by Marc Levinson; Container Management; Containerisation International; the Container Shipping Information Service (at; Costamare Shipping; Clarkson Research Services; Drewry Shipping Consultants; Lloyd’s List; Shipping Facts; the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Wikipedia.

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