When seen up close, the size and weight of a modern cargo ship can inspire awe and adoration. They’re built to transport massive cargo across long distances and oceans. In this article, I’ll discuss how much a cargo ship weighs, as well as its average carrying capacity.
So, how much does a cargo ship weigh? A large cargo ship with a deadweight of 220,000 tons measures 1,400 ft long by 200 ft wide (425 m by 60 m). This is nearly the same weight as the Sears Tower in Chicago!
A large cargo ship can transport up to 23,756 TEUs or twenty-foot equivalent units. As of 2010, there were around 9,535 container ships of this size or close to it, traveling trade routes across the world.
Read on to know more about how much a cargo ship weighs, including the average weight of the world’s 10 largest cargo ships.
How Much Does a Cargo Ship Weigh?
The weight of a cargo ship is reported to be 220,000 tons DWT, according to a 2011 estimate. The container ship would be 440 m long and 59 m wide. The capacity of this ship is up to 23,756 TEUs. Around 9,535 cargo ships were estimated to be crossing the world’s oceans in 2010. 
There are two types of modern containers currently in use. The twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) is the first, while the forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU) is the second. The FEU is simply the result of two TEU containers.
The terms FEU and TEU refer to international cargo shipping standards. They’re used to facilitate how cargo is transported by various container ships from multiple manufacturers.
The typical cargo ship could only transport a few hundred TEUs or 20-foot containers when they were built. Only in the late 1960s did shipbuilders begin to produce cargo ships capable of carrying 1,000 TEU containers.
Average Weight of Cargo Ships
Cargo ships, even those in the same class and constructed by the same manufacturer, are all unique. There would be some changes from time to time. It is for this reason why determining the standard container ship weight is difficult. However, it is not incorrect to say that container ships have an average weight.
How much does a cargo ship weigh? During the Second World War, merchant ships weighed between 6,000 and 10,000 tons on average. Some of the ships were under 6,000 tons. At that time, no ships weighed more than 10,000 tons.
Modern cargo ships are significantly larger. They now have a deadweight tonnage of 100,000 tons on average. Container ships weighing around 50,000 tons are still available. There are, however, larger cargo ships that weigh more than 200,000 tons.
Tankers in today’s merchant shipping usually range in size from 100,000 tons to half a million tons. However, some people in the container shipping business argue that determining the average weight of various ships built by different shipbuilders is difficult. It’s like comparing apples and oranges to them.
You might also be interested in the origins of the term ton. It is derived from the word tun, which was the term for liquor and wine barrel shipments back in the day. A tun took up 100 cubic feet of area. The letter “u” was changed with an “o” through time, resulting in the word ton. This word is now used to describe, among other things, the weight of a ship.
Biggest Cargo Ships in the World
The list of the world’s largest containerships has been continually growing as of 2020. The following is a list of ships along with their TEU capacities, from smallest to biggest:
1. MSC Jade
The Mediterranean Shipping Company’s fleet has the smallest of the top ten largest container ships in the world. This ship has a length of 398.40 m (1,307 ft), a width of 59.00 m (193.57 ft), and a height of 30.30 m (99.40 ft). It can carry a maximum of 19,224 TEUs and has a deadweight tonnage of 199,000 tons.
A MAN B&W 11G95ME-C9.5 two-stroke marine engine is the one that powers the MSC Jade. South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering constructed it. The ship was launched in 2016 and handed over to its owner in May 2019. When traveling across the oceans, the Liberian flag is raised on the ship’s mast.
2. MSC Leanne
MSC Leanne is one of the recent ships in the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s cargo fleet. This vessel has a capacity of 19,462 TEUs with a tonnage of 172,785 tons deadweight. The ship is 399.99 m or 1,312.30 ft. long, 58.80 m or 192.91 ft. wide, and 30.20 m or 99.08 ft. high.
The ship is 399.99 m or 1,312.30 ft. long, 58.80 m or 192.91 ft. wide, and 30.20 m or 99.08 ft. high. South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries made this cargo ship, which is a Pegasus-class container vessel. On its ocean journeys, it flies the Liberian flag.
3. MSC Rifaya
The MSC Rifaya is the next ship on our list of the world’s top ten largest container ships. It is 399.99 m (1,312.30 ft) in length and 58.80 m (192.91 ft) in width, with a draught of 23.31 m or 76.48 ft.
It’s a ship of the DNV-GL class that’s also bearing the Liberian flag. The deadweight tonnage of this vessel is 196,000 tons, and it has a carrying capacity of 19,462 TEUs.
4. MSC Mirjam
The Mediterranean Shipping Company also owns and operates the MSC Mirjam. It’s a container ship of the Pegasus class. It measures 399.99 meters (1,312.30 feet) in length and 58.80 meters (192.91 feet) in width. It has a draught of 23.31 meters (76.48 ft.).
The MSC Mirjam has a cargo capacity of 19,462 TEUs with a cruising speed of 14.7 knots and a gross tonnage of 194,489 tons. A MAN B&W 11G95ME-C9.5 two-stroke marine engine powers this container ship.
5. MSC Eloane
Another cargo ship from the Mediterranean Shipping Company is in the top ten. The MSC Eloane is a ship built by South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries. This container ship is of the Pegasus class, with a length of 399.99 meters (1,312.30 feet), a breadth of 58.80 meters (192.9 feet), and a draught of 31.31 meters (102.72 ft.).
The MSC Eloane has a deadweight tonnage of 201,869 tons and a maximum carrying capacity of 19,462 TEUs. This ship, together with its sister ships Ingy and Diana, sails under the Liberian flag.
6. MSC Ingy
Another Mediterranean Shipping Company ship made it into our top ten list of the world’s largest container ships. It’s the MSC Ingy, a ship that’s 399.99 meters long (1,312.30 feet) and 58.80 meters wide (192.91 feet) with a draught of 23.31 meters (76.48 ft.). It has a maximum capacity of 19,462 TEUs.
The MSC Ingy has a deadweight tonnage of 210,869 tons, which qualifies her for the top ten. Samsung Heavy Industries of South Korea floated this ship in April of 2016. It is now flying the Liberian flag and has a homeport in Monrovia.
7. MSC Diana
The MSC Diana is another of the world’s largest cargo ships, owned and operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company. It has a deadweight of 197,708 tons and a maximum carrying capacity of 19,362 TEUs.
This ship was manufactured by Samsung Heavy Industries of South Korea. It is presently sailing under the Liberian flag. This ship’s overall length is 399.99 meters (1,312.30 ft.). It has a beam width of 58.80 meters (192.91 feet) and a draught of 30.20 meters (99.08 ft.).
8. MOL Triumph
The MOL Triumph, operated and owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, is the world’s next largest container ship. It did hold the record for the world’s largest and heaviest cargo ship until Madrid Maersk beat it. This ship measures 400 meters (1,312.34 feet) in length, 58.8 meters (192.91 feet) in width, and 32 meters (104.98 feet) in height.
It was built by Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea. It was the first of a fleet of six 20,000 TEU ships in MOL’s dockyard. It set sail on its inaugural journey in April 2019 and is currently negotiating the Asia-Europe commerce route. The MOL Triumph is powered by a MAN B&W G95ME engine and has a top speed of 24 knots.
9. Madrid Maersk
Not until the OOCL Hong Kong was drafted into service by OOCL, the Maersk Line held the record for operating the world’s largest cargo ship. However, by today’s standards, its most recent cargo ship, Madrid, is still quite large.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering built this ship, which was taken into service by its owner in April 2019. Madrid Maersk has a maximum carrying capacity of 20,568 TEU containers. It’s one of the Triple E-Class ships.
The deadweight of Madrid is 192,672 tons. It has a total length of 399 meters (1,312.30 feet) with a beam of 58.8 meters (192.91ft.). The ship’s deck can accommodate 23 rows of containers. According to a report, it was constructed using cutting-edge technology and facilities that may be modified for future conversion to LNG power.
10. OOCL Hong Kong
Orient Overseas Container Lines, a Chinese shipping company, has a new ship called the OOCL Hong Kong. This container ship is an ultra-long ULCV (Ultra Large Container Vessel) with a length of 399.87 meters (1,311.909 feet). It has a record of being the first cargo vessel to exceed 21,000 TEUs, with a capacity of 21,413 TEU containers.
Samsung Heavy Industries constructed this ship, which was delivered to the owner in May 2019. It weighs 197,317 tons, with a beam of 58.8 meters (192.9 feet) and a depth of 32.5 meters (106.63 ft.). This ship will handle the Asia-Europe trade route.
Cargo Ships and Their Average Carrying Capacity
The deadweight tonnage of a cargo ship reveals its real carrying capacity. It’s the ship’s weight when it’s completely laden with all of its cargo. When a ship is loaded, the hull is submerged in the water up to the draught level of the ship.
A ship’s gross tonnage, on the other hand, is the actual carrying capacity of the hull, measured in cubic feet and divided by a hundred. These are the two commonly used cargo vessel measurements in international shipping.
Take, for example, the Christophe Colomb, a cargo ship operated by CMA CGM, a French transportation & shipping company. This ship is significantly larger than most huge cargo ships. It can float 153,222 tons of goods, which isn’t a lot in terms of cargo shipping.
However, there are far larger ships that can displace up to 600,000 tons of water. Some ports are unable to accommodate these massive vessels. These ships are known as Ultra Large Crude Carriers, and they only transport crude oil.
Consider the following information if you truly want to know the average cargo ship carrying capacity:
- A standard 40ft container can accommodate around 25-30 tons.
- An average cargo ship, around 700ft long, can carry approximately 1,000 of these 40ft containers.
- It would have a total carrying capacity of about 25,000 tons.
That figure can be interpreted as the average cargo ship carrying capacity. Cargo ships traveling between the US West Coast and Hawaii are typically 700 to 900 feet long in actuality. The cargo on board is typically between 15,000 and 18,000 tons in weight.
Conclusion – How Much Does a Cargo Ship Weigh? [Approximate Deadweight]
To summarize, according to a 2011 estimate, an ultra-large cargo ship of around 1,400 ft long by 200 ft wide (425 m by 60 m) has a deadweight of 220,000 tons. This is nearly the same weight as Chicago’s Sears Tower!
As of 2010, there were an estimated 9,535 container ships of this size that are in service around the world.