MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has again smashed the record for the world’s largest container ship.

The world’s largest container shipping company has taken delivery of the 24,346-teu MSC Irina (built 2023) — the first of six sisters to be delivered from China’s privately held Yangzijiang Shipbuilding.

At 399.9 metres long and 61.3 metres wide, the vessel is so large it had to be floated out with a truncated deckhouse and funnel, according to Alphaliner, so that it could slip underneath a number of bridges that cross the Yangtze River.

It was then completed at Jiangsu-Mitsui Shipyard at Taicang, from where there are no more obstacles on the way to the ocean.

Delivery of the MSC Irina displaces the 24,188-teu OOCL Spain (built 2023) as the world’s largest boxship.

That vessel is due to be phased into service this month after its delivery from Nantong Cosco KHI Ship Engineering.

MSC is taking delivery of more newbuilding capacity than any other carrier this year, including the 24,116-teu MSC Tessa (built 2023) from CSSC group this month.

MSC operates 40 big boxships of 19,000 to 24,000 teu and will receive a further nine this year, according to Alphaliner, widened its capacity lead over AP Moller-Maersk to more than 500,000 teu.

MSC’s fleet stands at 4.75m teu compared with 4.19m teu for Maersk.

Alphaliner believes MSC is likely to aim for a fleet size of 5.5m to 6m teu as the optimum for a global stand-alone shipping line.

Testing time

Delivery of the ultra large container carriers comes at a testing time for liner operators trading between Asia and northern Europe.

On 9 March, Maersk and MSC confirmed suspension of their AE1/Shogun service.

That is the first big alliance service in the Asia-Europe trade to be officially closed since Chinese export volumes began plummeting in September, Alphaliner said.

The 2M partners said slowing demand has left extra capacity that could be injected into other loops.

But Alphaliner said the closure will have little effect on trade, as all the loops sailings from China had been successively cancelled since December.