Follow up: Container Ship Fuel Efficiency.

After my last post, out of curiousity I decided to research the fuel efficiency of a container ship. I believe I've gotten a very basic understanding, though I'm sure it varies widely by size and age of ship and that some of my numbers are somewhat off.

Here is a study on the fuel efficiency of a the container ship Arafura, which I believe is the same ship owned by Hanseatic Lloyd. Per their website, it is a 4,250 TEU ship - meaning it can carry 4250 twenty foot containers or 2125 40 foot containers.

The Arufura burns 67.62 tons of fuel per day, and travels at about 18.2 nauts. This means it could travel the ~6,500 nautical mile journey from Shanghai to Long Beach in about 15 days, slightly longer than the 14 day trip I found listed elsewhere. It uses a type of fuel called "380 Bunker", which as of March 3rd, 2006 was selling for 280 EUR or ~$360 USD per ton. The journey from Shanghai to Long Beach would consume 1005 tons of fuel and would cost $360,234 in fuel. Divide this by 2125 containers, and it costs about $170 per container for fuel, assuming a 100% load. Obviously this amount does not include all the other important expenses, like insurance, the fixed cost of the ship/docks, the cost of crew, administration, etc.

From my understanding, the cost to a customer to transport a cargo container from Shanghai to Los Angeles is about $3000. So, fuel makes up about 5.6% of the total cost of transportation. Due to demand, the reverse trip costs about 1/4 as much, $750 - this time fuel is almost 23% of the total expense.

Obviously, the cost of fuel is not the major factor in transportation, but it still has an impact. A website on the subject from a few years ago showed the cost of 380 Bunker to be $133.50 - meaning the cost of fuel per ton has almost tripled in a few years.