NEW YORK : In 50 years from now, containerships could be capable of carrying up to 50,000 TEUs in a single voyage, autonomous and perhaps plow the seas alongside modular, drone-like floating containers, according to a report by consultants McKinsey.
In McKinsey's world of 2067, global container trade volumes will be between two and five times greater than they are today.
"On balance, we do not view 20,000 TEU as the natural end point for container ships - 50,000 TEU ones are not unthinkable in the next half-century. However, progress will probably be much slower than it was in the past decade: overcapacity means that new ordering will be slower over the next five to ten years," the McKinsey report was cited as saying.
"If demand catches up with supply, as it may well do in the early 2020s, the logic of scale will once again drive orders for bigger and bigger ships," the consultants wrote.
Short-haul intraregional traffic will rise, the consultants suggest, as manufacturing footprints disperse more widely because of converging global incomes and the increasing use of automation and robotics. Container flows in East and Southeast Asia will continue to be huge, and the second most significant tradelane may link that region to Africa, with a stopover in South Asia.
On further consolidation within the sector, McKinsey predicts: "After multiple value-destroying cycles of overcapacity and consolidation, three or four major container-shipping companies might emerge.
“These businesses could be either digitally enabled independents with a strong customer orientation and innovative commercial practices or small subsidiaries of tech giants seamlessly blending the digital and physical realms.”
Fifty years from now, McKinsey suggests freight forwarders might not exist.
"Freight forwarding as a stand-alone business will be virtually extinct, since digital interactions will have reduced the need for intermediaries to manage logistics services for multiple participants in the value chain. Across the industry, all winners will have fully digitised their customer interactions and operating systems and will be closely connected via data ecosystems," the report noted.