The top 10 largest container ships in the world

Cargo ships have consistently increased in size over the last 25 years, but what are the largest container ships in the world? Peter Nilson reports.

Container ships have increased in size over the years, taking advantage of economies of scale to reduce shipping prices worldwide. The largest modern container ships in the world can carry over 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) and have led to the creation of a new size categorisation, Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs).

Alongside the busiest cargo ports in the world increasing in size and capacity, the gross tonnage of newbuild container ships is increasing. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) received 10 new ships with a capacity of 24,232 TEU in 2023, alongside Ocean Network Express (ONE), Seaspan ULC, and Evergreen receiving a combined 12 vessels with over 24,000 TEU capacity since 2022.

Indeed, each class of ship in the top ten largest cargo ships in the world was delivered by shipbuilders in the last 5 years, a trend that shows that each new generation of cargo ships brings a larger capacity due to the expanding sizes of ports as well as developments in main engine technology.

So, here are the top ten largest classes of container ships in the world, by maximum TEU capacity.

10.  Hapag Lloyd Berlin Express Class (2023): 23,664 TEU

The Berlin Express Class ships, the flagship Berlin Express alongside her eleven sister ships, forms part of German operator Hapag-Lloyd’s fleet that operates between the Far East and Northern Europe. Delivered in 2023, the Berlin Express Measures 400m (1312 feet) long with a breadth of 61m (200 feet) and has a total capacity of 23,664 TEU, measuring 229,376 gross tonnes.

The Berlin Express Class ships are equipped with dual-fuel technology and can already run on LNG, but are also able to use alternative fuels, such as e-methane. The Berlin Express is powered by a MAN main engine with an output of over 75,000kW, allowing for a cruising speed of 22 knots.

9. MSC Gülsün Class: 23,756 TEU

The Gülsün Class, operated by MSC, is comprised of the flagship MSC Gülsün and her 15 sister ships. When launched in 2019, the MSC Gülsün was the largest container ship in the world, measuring 400m (1,312 feet) in length, a beam of 61.5m (202 feet), and 232,618 gross tonnes. The Gülsün class ships were the first container ships to feature a 24 container-wide deck.

The six Gülsün Class ships – including the flagship – built by Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) have a maximum capacity of 23,756 TEU. The remaining ten built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (Daewoo) have a maximum capacity of 23,656 TEU and would have featured at number 11 on this list.

8. HMM Algeciras Class (SHI): 23,820 TEU

The Algeciras Class consists of 12 vessels built for Korean operator HMM (formerly known as Hyundai Merchant Marine). When delivered in 2020, they were the largest class of container ship in the world. 

Like the Gülsün class, the Algeciras fleet consists of two groups with different capacities. The five ships built by SHI, led by the HMM Oslo and sometimes subcategorised as the Oslo class, measure 400m (1,312 feet) long and 61.5m (202 feet) wide, with 232,311 gross tonnage and a maximum capacity of 23,820 TEU.

7. HMM Algeciras Class (Daewoo): 23,964 TEU

The second and larger group of the Algeciras Class are those built by Daewoo, which is now known as Hanwha Ocean, also delivered in 2020. This group includes the flagship HMM Algeciras, as well as six other sister ships. With the Olso class, the Algericas Class is deployed on routes between Asia and Europe.

Like their SHI-built counterparts, the Daewoo-built ships also measure 400m (1,312 feet) but are slightly more slimline, with a beam of 61m (200 feet). These vessels measure 228,283 gross tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 23,964 TEU.

6. Evergreen A Class (2021): 23,992 TEU

The Evergreen A Class (Ever A) is comprised of 13 vessels –11 in operation and two under construction – operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corporation (Evergreen). Again, this class is split into two groups of differing maximum capacity, built across three different shipyards.

The six Ever A vessels built by SHI measure 400m (1,312 feet) long, 61.5m (202 feet) wide, and 235,579 gross tonnes. The SHI-built ships, delivered in 2021, have a maximum capacity of 23,992 TEU, slightly smaller than their counterparts. Four are operated by Evergreen subsidiary GreenCompass Marine and the other two by Evergreen.

5. Evergreen A Class (2022): 24,004 TEU

The remaining five Ever A Class vessels currently in operation were built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and delivered in 2022. Two of the ships are part of GreenCompass Marine’s fleet, with the remaining three operated by Evergreen, which has another two vessels on order from CSSC.

Like their SHI-built counterparts, these ships measure 400m (1,312 feet) long, 61.5m (202 feet) wide, and 235,579 gross tonnes, but have a larger capacity of 24,004 TEU.

4. MSC Tessa Class: 24,116 TEU

The Tessa Class, sometimes known as the Hudong Class, is operated by MSC and comprises eight ships, led by the flagship MSC Tessa. Built by CSSC, these ships are based on the Ever A Class ships. Eight vessels were delivered in 2023, with two more still under construction. The Tessa Class ships transport cargo between Europe and East Asia.

The Tessa Class vessels measure 400m (1,312 feet) long, 61.5m (202 feet) wide, and 230,757 gross tonnes, but have a larger capacity than the Ever A Class ships they are based on, with a maximum capacity of 24,116 TEU.

3. ONE I Class: 24,136 TEU

The ONE I Class are ULCS ships used in long-term charters by the Singaporean shipping company ONE. The six-unit series was commissioned in 2020 and delivered in 2023, initially with the flagship ONE Innovation.

The I Class vessels measure 400m (1,312 feet) long, 61.4m (201 feet) wide, and 235,311 gross tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 24,136 TEU. ONE’s I Class vessels are currently used on liner services between Europe and East Asia.

2. OOCL G Class (2023): 24,188 TEU

The G class is a series of container ships built for the Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL). The newest cohort, built by China’s COSCO Shipyard Group, is led by the OOCL Spain. Six ships were delivered in 2023, with a further six currently under construction.

The new G Class vessels measure 400m (1,312 feet) long, 61.3m (201 feet) wide, and 235,341 gross tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 24,188 TEU. OOCL currently uses G Class vessels between Europe and East Asia.

1. MSC Irina Class: 24,346 TEU

The Irina Class is currently the largest class of container ships in the world. Led by the flagship MSC Irina, there are four ships currently being operated by MSC between Europe and East Asia, with two more under construction by China’s Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group.

The initial Irina Class vessels, delivered in 2023, measure 400m (1,312 feet) long, 61.3m (201 feet) wide, and 233,328 gross tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 24,346 TEU.