A shipping line can obtain the highest yearly income by using a futuristic 8,000-teu (20 ft equivalent unit) vessel sailing at 24 knots, researchers have revealed.
The study, Container Transport Systems of the Future, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology, said: 'The cost level entailed gives the shipping company some leeway in adjusting rates to match competition.' Hans Payer, a Germanischer Lloyd executive and the research project manager, said the Eurokai container terminal in Hamburg investigated nine round-trip alternatives for each of the 40 ships between 5,000 and 8,000 teus used in the study, making a total of 360 variants.
Analysis covered the costs as a function of: the total distance, the number of ports visited, the ship's size, and speed.
The results showed: The longer the sea leg, the greater the influence of fuel consumption and fuel cost on the sea transport costs for each container; The cost per conveyed 20 ft container can be reduced by connecting two markets with a shuttle service; and, The more ports that are visited, the higher the sea transport costs per 20 ft container.
Fewer port visits resulted in greater use of inland transport, Dr A. Kraus, an executive with shipbuilders HDW, said.
But these savings were generally insufficient to counter the added costs of inland transport.
'Large and relatively slow ships are the most economical means of sea transport today. Above 26 knots the investment and fuel costs increase markedly,' Dr Kraus said.
He added that a jumbo carrier serving a fleet belonging to a consortium should not sail slower than 24 to 26 knots to keep to schedules.
The study was based on an 'optimal ship' with a capacity of about 8,000 teus.
HDW has designed a vessel structure to assist in the calculation of cost savings.
The study forms part of a two-year-old project which is aimed not only at perpetuating Germany's lead in container vessels but also developing technology for the whole container transport system.
The project will examine the entire system, between the sender and recipient, of economy, reliability and ecological compatibility.
The Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics is using simulation and forecasting models to portray the global container traffic.
The institute has also developed a computer model to calculate the cost of alternative ship sizes and route arrangements.
The project's next phase will examine topics such as securing cargo, sequence of handling, sub-division of the ship and ballast systems.