The Reason Why Massive Ships Are So Slow

Can you imagine a large ship tearing through the ocean at fast speeds?

If the video player is not working, you can click on this alternative video link.

It's a well-known fact that massive sea ships are painfully slow. The Ever Given, for instance, the gargantuan container ship famous for blocking the Suez Canal, traveled at an average running speed of 23 to 34 mph (37 to 54 km/h). That's slow especially compared to the maximum speed of a Boeing 737-800 (588 mph (946 km/h)).

One of the reasons for the slow speeds of large ships is to reduce their carbon emissions. International shipping
produces two to three percent of global CO2 emissions and slowing down these ships is one of the most effective ways to reduce both fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

It's a practice called slow steaming and it consists of lowering ship speeds to 12 to 19 knots (13 to 21 mph; 22 to 35 km/h) from the standard 20 to 25 knots (23 to 28 mph; 37 to 46 km/h). The practice was first introduced in the 1970s but gained popularity during the 2008 recession when demand for shipping fell.


Did slow steaming work? By how much did it manage to reduce carbon emissions? Do all massive ships practice it? We answer all these questions and more in our video.

Follow Us on

Stay on top of the latest engineering news

Just enter your email and we’ll take care of the rest:

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.