Imagine a freighter the length of five football fields hauling electronics from port to port in 22,000 containers.
Super freighters measuring 1,500 feet long by 196 feet wide by 10 stories high move at the same speeds (24-26 knots) as typical freighters but reduce shipping costs by up to 40 percent. Built by STX Offshore and Shipbuilding, these ships have tremendous implications for the electronics supply chain.
For example, you can't berth this big baby just anywhere. Or, as my dad use to say, “You can't put two pounds of rocks into a one-pound bag.” The super freighters are so huge and sit so low in the water that ports have to be designed, sea beds dredged, and berthing and loading accommodations modified.
The Port of Rotterdam is doing that right now. Already the world's busiest import and export sea port, Rotterdam is working on a $4 billion project to accommodate the ships. It has already dredged 7 billion cubic feet of sand — a supersized project for supersized boats. The time-phased, three-decade port project is expected to make the first super freighter deep water dock available for operation next year.
When this project is complete in 2035, the port will be able to handle the largest ships and will have the capacity to handle 32 million 20-foot-equivalent (TEU) containers a year. In two months, it could handle enough containers to circle the globe. Currently, the port is handling about 12 million TEUs per year.
It is not just dredging and constructing that will make this high throughput possible. The new port will have technology placements that will be energy efficient, quieter, and smarter than current operations. Aside from filling a 66-foot deep ocean area of four square miles, the project will involve automated container vehicles powered by 13-ton rechargeable lead acid batteries. These all-electric shuttles, following transponders embedded in the pavement, will be quieter and cleaner than the current units requiring diesel fuel.
In handling and energy efficiency alone, the expected savings is anticipated to be about 50 percent. Also, the cranes now used for loading and unloading will be replaced with built-in hydraulic lifts.
The plan is to power the port with electricity harvested from windmills and two 1,100-megawatt coal and biomass plants that will capture most of their carbon dioxide. The port authority has launched a large-scale carbon-capture and storage program to put 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year in exhausted undersea oilfields.
Just for grins, I calculated that, with 175 bicycles per container, the new super freighter will be able to transport 3,850,000 bicycles at a time. Part of my last job was to manage import shipments of settop boxes. One TEU could hold 6,000 of those. If I crammed the new 22,000-container super freighter with these cable boxes, I could move 132 million boxes at one crossing. I wish I had the commission on those.