I understand that this may be incredibly vague, but based on current container ships, does anyone have an idea of how much power a 50,000 TEU (TwentyFoot Equivalent Unit) container ship might require?

  1. For propulsion (assuming a single screw)
  2. For auxiliary power

And how much fuel (assuming petroleum)would have to be carried onboard?


The Algeciras-class container ships have just under 24,000 TEU of capacity, and are powered by MAN 11G95ME engines rated at 101,300 SHP. I'm not sure if this 50,000 TEU ship's power would simply be double that of the Algeciras ships.


While the TEU is not itself a measure of mass, some conclusions can be drawn about the maximum mass that a TEU can represent. The maximum gross mass for a 20-foot (6.1 m) dry cargo container is 24,000 kilograms (53,000 lb). Subtracting the tare mass of the container itself, the maximum amount of cargo per TEU is reduced to approximately 21,600 kilograms (47,600 lb).

UPDATE: Conceptually, the main engine would be a MAN "14G108ME-C" with a 1080 mm bore and 4800 mm stroke. At 70 RPM, total output is 10.8 MW per cylinder with 151.2 MW at the shaft, plus a 10 MW shaft generator, and mean piston speed is 12 m/s.

Emissions reduction is accomplished with direct water/methanol injection, low-pressure SCR, and a sodium hydroxide wet scrubber.

Assuming a 5300mm centre-to-centre distance for the connecting rods, peak-to-peak amplitudes for the secondary imbalance are 574.537mm overall, consisting of 574.301mm second-order, 8.2246mm fourth-order, 0.235618mm sixth order, and 8.43819μm eighth-order.

  • $\begingroup$ How much for a smaller one? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 6, 2022 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ How many choices do you have over, say, 110,000 hp? $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Jul 6, 2022 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ This is about 4.5 times bigger than the Emma Maersk $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Jul 6, 2022 at 19:32

2 Answers 2


Final answer: 150 MW (202,000 hp) for 19 knot propulsion and 30.6MW for auxiliaries.

EMMA MÆRSK IMO 9321483 (2006) (from wikipedia + equasis.org)

  • Tonnage 156,907 DWT
  • Length 397 m
  • Beam 56 m
  • Draught 16.02 m
  • Depth 30 m
  • Propulsion 81 MW (109,000 hp) Wärtsilä 14RT-Flex96c plus 2 9 MW electric motors
  • Thrusters 2 Bow (1.75MW) 2 Stern (1.75MW)
  • Auxiliaries 40 MW 5 Caterpillar 8M32 generators + 8.5 MW TG (Steam powered turbo generator - exhaust heat recovery)
  • Speed 25.5 knots
  • Capacity 14,770+ TEU 1,000 TEU (reefers)

$$ \frac{81 MW}{14,770 TEU} = 5.48 kW/TEU$$

MADRID MÆRSK - Triple E class - 2nd generation - IMO 9778791 (2017) (from wikipedia + equasis.org)

  • Tonnage 210,019 DWT
  • Length 399.2 m
  • Beam 58.6 m
  • Draft 17 m
  • Depth 33.20 m
  • Propulsion 2 31 MW (42,000 hp) Twin MAN + 2 2 MW shaft generators/motors
  • Auxiliaries 13.44 MW = 2 3.84 MW + 2 2.88 MW Hyundai generators + 4.6 MW TG + 2 2 MW shaft generators/motors
  • Thrusters 2 Bow (2.5 MW)
  • Speed 19 knots (23 knots)
  • Capacity 20,568 TEU 1,600 TEU (reefers)

$$ \frac{62 MW}{20,568 TEU} = 3.01 kW/TEU$$

A quick scan makes it seems that sailing with the Triple-E class produces a better energy usage than the E class. As vessels get larger, energy usage/TEU goes down, but this number is a little misleading since IMO have introduced energy efficiency (EEDI) on 2005+ new designs. Container ships have gotten around improvements in energy efficiency by sailing slower (19 knots for 2017 vs 25.5 knots for 2006) with larger propellors and larger engines. Either way, it will not be above 3.01 kW/TEU.

Now it is 2 engines vs 1 (as required by OP), but using 3.01 kW/TEU, we get propulsion of 150 MW (202,000 hp). This would be the high level for estimation. The state-of-the-art is the Wärtsilä RT-flex96C 84.42 MW (114,800 bhp) (length 27 m, height 13.5 m, weight 2,300 tonnes) used on container ships, so not really sure how it would be fitted as dual engines.

Auxiliaries are a tad harder. They depend on reefer (refrigerated containers) capacity and thrusters. Typically 10% of TEU capacity is reefers. Specifically 1,000 on E class and 1,600 on Triple-E. TEU Reefers can draw up from 5.5kW (frozen) to 9kW (fresh fruit).

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Container Handbook recommends 3.6kW/TEU reefer.

The Triple-E class produces.

$$ \frac{13.44 MW - 2 \times 2.5 MW}{1,600 TEU} = 5.275 kW/TEU$$

Unsure how shaft generators/motors factor in to manouvering.

1,600 of 20,568 = 7.8% and 7.8% of 50,000 is 3,900 reefers. Let's double bow thrusters.

$$kW = 2 \times 5 MW + 3,900 reefers \times 5.275 kW/TEU = 30.6MW$$

Saase (2017/2018) estimates dimensions for a 50,000 TEU to be:

  • Length 521.14 m
  • Beam 78.20 m
  • Draught 21.56 m
  • Air draught 86.08 m
  • Rows 30
  • Tiers 27
  • Bays 32

Ports would have to be dredged. Vessel would take up two present bays. Existing loading facilities would not be able to load it. No Suez canal (unless massive dredging, possibly widening). Bridge view issues, so vessel would probably be autonomous.

By 2050, IMO will have a 50% reduction in GHG in place, so heavy crude oil may not be a good choice.

Mӕrsk are using a 600 kWh battery in two containers (one control) to act as a buffer to not bring a generator online and meet peak demand loads. Battery charges from waste heat TG.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It comes down to supply and demand. And it could be a little like if you build it, they will come. You are looking at a 520-550m vessel, possibly autonomous, but you do need crew to check/adjust moorings on containers. Energy efficiency will mean low and slow. Heavy crude as fuel may not be usable due to CO2 regulations. Ports would have to be deepended. Suez canal may have to be dredged/widened. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2022 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ So I'm gonna tweak these numbers a bit: with 5.5 kW/TEU, and 10% reefers, we get 47.5 MW of auxiliary power required. That 47.5 MW also includes 10 MW of additional power for the stern thrusters. Giving the upcoming 45/60 engines that MAN are supposed to be releasing soon, we can use four of the 14V45/60CR engines, rated at 24,500 SHP each, for auxiliary power. I'm also going to specify that the main engine has a 10MW shaft generator and a scrubber that uses NaOH to scrub CO2 and SO2, allowing continued operation on crude oil while meeting CO2 and sulfur regulations. $\endgroup$
    – user10249
    Jul 9, 2022 at 23:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Heat recovery on stacks to run a turbo generator would give you 8-9MW for no additional fuel. TG can not be easily synced to main generators, but switchboard can be setup drive something. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2022 at 0:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StainlessSteelRat MW scale AC->DC->AC converters could help with syncing a TG to the main generators, and while I don't have a product in mind the concept isn't unreasonable. $\endgroup$
    – Peter M
    Jul 11, 2022 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterM In the real world, but ship owners tend to be frugal. And there are space issues Reality is it is easier to split loads and generator source at switchboard so different frequencies can exist. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2022 at 20:01

Inconsequential. Specific to question is what speed and acceleration do you hope to attain?

The container ship Container ship Emma Mærsk has a capacity of 14,770 TEU. Propelled by a 109,000 hp diesel marine engine (and accessory caterpillar engines for small low speed maneuver)

TH current largest TEU vessel afloat is the Ever Alot, with a capacity of 24,004 TEU. Despite being bigger and heavier these ships are powered by a mere 78,000 hp.

To move 50,000 TEU may need a 1,600 foot long vessel, in 350,000-400,000 tonnage...Again power is inconsequential.....100,000 hp is sufficient.

  • $\begingroup$ For a speed, let's say 20 knots. $\endgroup$
    – user10249
    Jul 7, 2022 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Seawise Giant, was a supertanker & the longest self-propelled ship in history....with a full tonnage of 646,642 long tons top speed of 16.5 knots.... So...you probably need in the 120-140 thousand hp $\endgroup$
    – LazyReader
    Jul 8, 2022 at 8:38

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