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Optimal container ship size: a global cost minimization approach


  • Feng Lian
  • Jiaru Jin
  • Zhongzhen Yang


Currently, the best container ship size in a service is determined mainly by the liner operator, considering only the economies of scale of ships. Its external diseconomies to the ports and shippers are usually not considered in the decision-making process, which may reduce the overall efficiency and lead to global nonoptimality. This study incorporates the cost to the shipping companies at the main lines, ports, and feeder services, as well as the external costs to shippers and ports in a hub-and-spoke network, and determines the best ship size and the number of weekly services to minimize the overall costs. The external cost to the shippers in the feeder ports is assumed to be proportional to the feeder cost, and a sensitivity analysis is provided. The maximum container ship size is estimated according to different levels of freight demand. A numerical analysis shows that the optimal size should be smaller than the current biggest container ships in service.

Suggested Citation

  • Feng Lian & Jiaru Jin & Zhongzhen Yang, 2019. "Optimal container ship size: a global cost minimization approach," Maritime Policy & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(7), pages 802-817, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:marpmg:v:46:y:2019:i:7:p:802-817
    DOI: 10.1080/03088839.2019.1630760

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    Cited by:

    1. Xing, Hui & Spence, Stephen & Chen, Hua, 2020. "A comprehensive review on countermeasures for CO2 emissions from ships," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
    2. Zhang, Ruiyou & Huang, Chao & Feng, Xuehao, 2020. "Empty container repositioning with foldable containers in a river transport network considering the limitations of bridge heights," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 197-213.

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