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A few days ago, my mate Peter and I were walking round the marina at Roker, Sunderland and passed 2 colourfully painted but very old buoys, made from riveted steel plates and about 10 feet high and 7 feet diameter.  Our wives commented on how amazing it was that they float and I could not stop myself from ‘showing off’ by commenting that it was all based on Archimedes principle.  Needless to say, the wives were not really impressed and when I tried to expand on my incredible knowledge of the subject, they just walked on.

Peter, who’s Superpower is not engineering and who didn’t pay a lot of attention during his Physics lessons at school, was slightly more interested and told me he sometimes wonders how ships tend not to scrape on rocks or the seabed and is impressed at how huge some vessels are in these modern times.

He’s a clever lad, well OK, older gentleman and in general terms, he is aware that increasing length and breadth of a vessel results in shallower draughts.  So I mentioned that, as a result of naval architects coming up with these increasingly ginormous structures, ship designs especially, have to be created for vessels that will be trading in certain parts of the world, to ensure they will be able to berth at the location when they arrive.  If they are there to load a cargo, then the optimum objective should be to load a maximum capacity cargo and still have enough draught clearance to depart the area safely.

On the day, I mentioned to Peter the ship-max types of Panamax, Suezmax and Newcastlemax, as three I could remember offhand but said there were quite a few more.

When I got back home, I decided to check the Internet to see how many ship-maxes there are and what they are and was surprised that most of them I had never heard of.  As well as the 3 above, the other ones I have come across are Handymax and Kamsarmax.

For readers who are interested, I have noted below the terms I found during my limited research.

Handymax vessels, often classified as Handymax bulk carriers, are small sized cargo ships with load carrying capacity of 40,000 to 60,000 DWT. One of the most commonly used vessels of the global merchant vessel fleet, Handymax vessels are typically 150-200 m in length.  These vessels can gain easy entrance through most port and harbour facilities and are used for less voluminous cargoes.  Different cargoes can be carried in different holds.

Large Capesizes with a maximum beam of 47 meters are called Newcastlemax and they are the largest vessels which can enter the Newcastle port of Australia.  This is a vessel of a newer generation and 200,000 tons of iron ore instead of 175,000 tons can be loaded onto the Newcastlemax, at a draft of 18.5 meters,”

Bulk carriers such as Wozmax (W for western, OZ for Australia), are designed for transporting coal from western Australian ports.  Vessels of this type have a deadweight of 250,000 tons. Accordingly, the use of Wozmax vessels allows shippers to increase shiploads by 75,000 tons (over 40%) immediately, compared with Capesize vessels, and enables the port authorities to receive USD 500,000 from a single ship call.

Versatility of a Kamsarmax Vessel:
・Length of 229 meters, allows entry to Kamsar Port in the Republic of Guinea (exports bauxite, iron ore and oil).
・Designed with a depth to main deck of 20.15 meters, shallow draft of 14.55 meters and minimal air draft for versatility to accommodate the majority of major ports.
・Excellent trading flexibility for carrying the three major bulk cargoes of iron ore, grains, and coal, as well as hot coils.

Chinamax vessels are one of the largest bulk carrier ships in the world and often classified under Very Large Ore Carriers (VLOC). Unlike other cargo carrying vessels which are measured in terms of their size, the Chinamax cargo ships are measured not just in terms of their size but also in terms of their length.
These vessels were initially custom built to cater between the Chinese port facilities and the South American nation of Brazil, though presently the development of appropriate harbour facilities have ensured their applicability beyond these two regions.  Also commonly famous as Valemax vessels, Chinamax ships have a Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT) of up to 400,000 tonnes and measure about 360 meters lengthwise with a breadth of about 65 meters and a draft of about 25 meters

The term Suezmax is used for the largest ship that can pass through the Suez Canal. A typical Suezmax vessel has a capacity of 120,000 to 200,000 DWT with maximum 20.1 mts draft with beam no wider than 50.0mts (164.0 ft) or 12.2 mts (40 ft) of draught for ships with maximum allowed beam of 77.5 mts. Suezmax ships have lengths of about 275 metres stipulated as per the Suez Canal passage requirements.

Panamax and New Panamax are terms used for ships that are designed to travel through the Panama Canal. The ship classification indicates the minimum dimensions required by the ship to able to pass smoothly through the Panama Canal. The sizes of Panamax ships are determined by considering the dimensions of the smallest lock of the canal. Those ships which do not fall under the dimension criteria of the Panama vessel are known as Post-Panamax Vessels.

New Panamax
The expansion of Panama Canal by making new locks have given birth to a new class of ships called New Panamax vessels.  New Panamax classification of ship sizes denotes those kinds of cargo ships that have been built in accordance with the new locks of the Panama Canal. These vessels have a load carrying capacitance of about 13,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) with lengths up to 427 meters.  
The expansion of the canal with bigger size locks allows larger ships to pass through the canal with utmost ease.

The term Aframax is usually used for medium sized oil tankers with approximate weight of 120,000 DWT.  These ship sizes gain their title from the Average Freight Rate Assessment schematic devised by the shipping conglomerate Shell in the mid-1950s. Mainly oil tanker vessels, Aframax vessels can be loaded with over 700,000 crude oil casks. Aframax tankers ply in areas which have limited port facilities or lack large ports to accommodate giant oil carriers. The beam of the vessel is restricted to 32.3 meters or 106 feet

The Qatar Max or the Q-Max ships as the vessels are colloquially referred are the biggest known LNG tanker ships. The Q-max’s have been specifically built to suit the entryway of the Liquefied Natural Gas depot of Ras Laffhan in the middle-east Asian country of Qatar. These cargo ships have a capacity to carry about 266,000 cubic meters LNG.

Other names I came across are:
Malaccamax  –  Re the Malacca Straits
Seawaymax  –  Re- The Saint Lawrence Seaway

Some of them sound as if they are quite newly produced and on that basis, I am assuming there will be many more new ship Maxes created in the future.  As vessel sizes continue to grow and ever more port locations are established for the import and export of raw materials and finished goods, new ships will have to be have to be designed, to enable fast and efficient global sea-trade to continue.

Am I right??

John H Lightfoot MBE