Over short distances, the transporting of containers by sea and the use of feeder services represents an alternative to road transport. Feeder services are used to transport containers between large European ports and neighbouring ports:

  • For exports, these services feed the larger ports with traffic and allow them to bulk up flows.
  • For imports, they shift traffic from large European ports to neighbouring ports.

These services represent an alternative to road transport by extending inter-continental maritime links. Actually, a proportion of the containers unloaded in major European ports would travel by road if they were not transferred on to smaller capacity container carriers.

N.B. Feeder and ferry services with islands are not considered in the presentation of services on this website (Decide section), except for the United Kingdom.

The sea transport of containers requires vertical handling for which there are various types of Lo-Lo vessel.

Short sea shipping of containers.

These ships have a capacity of between several hundred and several thousand containers. They may also be equipped with cranes for handling operations.

There are also mixed Ro-Lo or Conro ships.

Deep sea container transport.

Used for inter-continental sea transport, these container carriers can carry several thousand containers. The largest ones, such as the CMA-CGM ship shown in the photograph, can hold slightly more than ten thousand. Currently, the largest, in service since 2009, is the Christophe Colomb with a capacity of 13,300 twenty-foot equivalent units. The size of these giants of the sea is such that ports often have to extend their facilities in order to accommodate them, notably by dredging and possibly investment in additional portainers.

Photo source: CMA-CGM.