Note: The stacking density assumes the usage of RTGs with an average figure of 1,000 TEU per hectare. Number of trucks assumes an average of 2 TEU carried and a length of 16.5 meters per truck. The average intermodal train carries 400 TEU and has a length of 2,000 meters, which corresponds to North American conditions. For Europe, trains of 750 meters and 80 TEU are the average, which would involve significantly more train services for the same traffic.
Impacts of Larger Containership Calls on Port Hinterland Traffic
Using larger ships has in important impact on the configuration of shipping services, but as well as to a port's operations and hinterland traffic. Larger ships usually imply less frequent port calls, particularly if a similar amount of traffic is involved. Therefore, a service involving two port calls per week using Panamax ships of 4,500 TEU could be replaced by Post-Panamax ships of 8,000 - 9,000 TEU calling once a week. Although this approach would improve the productivity of maritime shipping, it also implies externalities for hinterland transportation.
An average Panamax containership call can generate about 1,700 TEU, including loading and unloading, which would require about 1.7 hectares of stacking area. If no transshipment activity is involved, this volume would require about 850 single truck trips carrying 2 TEU, which if those trucks were lined up would extend for 14 km. This volume handled by intermodal rail would require the equivalent of 4.25 trains extending over 8.5 km. This is contingent upon the presence of on-dock rail facilities since containers would need to be trucked to near-dock rail terminals. In reality, ports handle their hinterland traffic in various combinations of road and rail shares, so the more rail is prevalent, the less trucking assets are required (and vice-versa). North American and European ports have significant modal differences, including the possibility of using barge services for several European ports, with the average barge able to carry about 200 TEU.
A Post-Panamax containership call can generate about 3,500 TEU, which would require about 3.5 hectares of stacking area. This volume would require about 1,750 truck trips (extending 28.8 km if lined up) or 8.75 intermodal trains (extending 17.5 km if lined up). As such, the same amount of traffic generates a larger and more compressed level of port activity, putting additional pressures on its port and hinterland servicing assets. A likely impact would be that some ports may be facing declining capacity issues as a consequence of larger containerships calls. This situation becomes more acute if larger containerships are used (such as 10,000 to 12,000 TEU ships) since they may further compress the use of port and hinterland assets.