Airports Had to Deal With Over 2 Billion Litres of Airplane Toilet Waste in 2019

We already know airplanes don’t have enough toilets.

But where does all the waste go once the vacuum has sucked the waste out of the toilet bowl?

No, it doesn’t get ejected.

But on a busy flight recently (Easyjet, many drunk tourists, lots of trips to the toilet) I started to think; how big is the waste tank? Can it ever get full?

Plane waste tank sizes

Manufacturer Model Total waste capacity (L)
Boeing 747-400 1135
Boeing 787-8 1628
Airbus A380 2096

Using publicly available data sheets for aircraft, I found the above specifications for each waste tank.

Waste capacity per passenger

Let’s assume the toilets are exclusively for urination to simplify the calculations.

According to Healthline:

The normal range of urine output is 800 to 2,000 milliliters per day if you have a normal fluid intake of about 2 liters per day.

Let’s take also assume this is passed during waking hours, so 16 hours (960 mins), and that people are awake on flights.

At the lower estimate (800ml) that’s 50ml per hour. At the higher estimate (2000ml) that’s 125ml per hour.

The planes for which I have collected statistics for all fly predominantly long haul routes. Let’s assume that to be 6 to 11 hours.

Average human urination rates (ave volume per hour)

Download graph.

Hour Low (urinate vol ave ml) High (urinate vol ave ml)
1 50 125
2 100 250
3 150 375
4 200 500
5 250 625
6 300 750
7 350 875
8 400 1000
9 450 1125
10 500 1250
11 550 1375
12 600 1500

Full table.

Assuming a full 11 hour flight, best case, each passenger will pass 550 ml, worst case, 1375 ml.

Manufacturer Model Total waste capacity (L) Total pax (typical) Total wast capacity per pax (L)
Boeing 747-400 1135 416 2.73
Boeing 787-8 1628 467 3.49
Airbus A380 2096 525 3.99

Even on the 747-800 which has the lowest waste tank volume per passenger, this still leaves room for 1 extra litre in the tank per passenger. On the A380, there’s over 2.5 spare litres of waste tank capacity per passenger.

It’s unlikely they’ll overflow, even on a particularly boozy flight.

Dealing with waste

When a plane lands, most of you would have noticed a fuel truck and the baggage carts arrive to empty the plane and prepare it for the next flight. You might not have seen the waste disposal truck arrive to empty the tank (generally at the back of the plane).

Let’s assume the average flight time for planes arriving at airports is 4 hours (so planes are carrying between 200ml – 500ml of urine per passenger).

Busiest airport by pax Apr 2021 graph

Download graph.

Airport Country Passengers Apr 2021 (mil) Total waste low Apr 2021 (urinate vol ave l) Total waste high Apr 2021 (urinate vol ave l)
Guangzhou (CAN) China 2.572 5144000 1286000
Atlanta (ATL) United States 2.459 4918000 1229500
Dallas (DFW) United States 2.364 4728000 1182000
Chengdu (CTU) China 2.329 4658000 1164500
Denver (DEN) United States 2.182 4364000 1091000
Beijing (PEK) China 2.061 4122000 1030500
Shenzhen (SZX) China 2.055 4110000 1027500
Shanghai (PVG) China 1.994 3988000 997000
Charlotte (CLT) United States 1.889 3778000 944500
Shanghai (SHA) China 1.863 3726000 931500
Chicago (ORD) United States 1.768 3536000 884000
Hangzhou (HGH) China 1.669 3338000 834500
Orlando (MCO) United States 1.637 3274000 818500
Phoenix (PHX) United States 1.585 3170000 792500
Los Angeles (LAX) United States 1.537 3074000 768500

Full table.

Let’s assume the upper end of the estimates, the world’s busiest airport by passenger volume, Guangzhou, would have handled 5.14 million litres of pee from 2.57 million passengers in April 2021. At that rate, they’d be dealing with over 60 million litres of pee every year.

For reference, an Olympic sized swimming pool holds 2.5 million litres.

According to ICAO:

the total number of passengers carried on scheduled services rose to 4.5 billion in 2019

Assuming that low estimate (200ml per pax), that equates to 900 million litres of waste from all planes in 2019.

If we consider each passenger passed an average of 500ml, that’s 2.2 billion litres (or 880 Olympic swimming pools… which to me doesn’t sound that much!).


The world’s busiest airport by passenger volume, Guangzhou, could have handled 5.14 million litres of pee in April 2021. On a worldwide scale, airplane yearly toilet waste is estimated to be 900 million – 2.2 billion litres total. Despite this volume of pee, it’s unlikely the waste tank on a plane will ever reach capacity.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Santa’s Fulfilment Center Handles Over £162 Billion of Gifts in Single Day

It’s nearly Christmas!

Time for a festive post.

No expensive Christmas trees or private jets this year — I’d like to keep the number of people going into debt to fund Christmas down.

This year we’ll rely solely on Santa.

I’ve got used to Amazon Prime delivery, but even Amazon do not have the delivery capacity of Santa… yet.

Let’s start by looking at how many gifts Santa will be delivering this year…

Estimated number of households by continent

Download chart.

Examining total households (excluding persons living inside collective living quarters, such as hotels, rooming houses and other lodging houses, institutions and camps) there are 2,174,034,795 households.

There are 86,400 seconds in a day. So Santa needs to deliver to one household every 0.00003974177 seconds (86,400/2,174,034,795). No time for a snack break!

Lets for a moment ignore continents where the Christianity is less dominant (namely Asia), we have about 1 billion households. In this case Santa needs to deliver to one household every 0.0000864 seconds (86,400/1,000,000,000). Still no time for a snack break!

According to the UN, the world population in 2021 is 7.9 billion.

If we consider the official Premier League match ball, the Nike Premier League Flight which costs £125 at retail, Santa’s total bill for presents would be £987,500,000,000 (125*7,900,000,000) — almost £1 billion! Even if he chooses a relatively cheap £20 ball (or is able to negotiate a bulk discount), we’re still talking in the 100’s of billions of Pounds, £158,000,000,000 (20*7,900,000,000)

It’s hard to visualise that many people. Although I’m informed by National Geographic:

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, the entire world’s population could fit within the 500 square miles (1,300 square kilometers) of Los Angeles.

But what do 7.9 billion presents look like?

In the interests of fairness, let’s assume each present is the same. This year everyone is getting a football (soccer ball). This makes it easier for Santa as it can be delivered in a cube shaped box.

Rules state that a size 5 ball must be 68 to 70 cm in circumference. So the maximum radius is 35cm. Let’s assume the box’s dimensions are 35cmx35cmx35cm (a cube).

Laid side by side the boxes would cover 2,765,000km (0.00035km*7,900,000,000). Placed around the equator (40,075km), the presents could be laid around the planet almost 69 times (2,765,000/40,075).

The earths surface area is 510.1 million km². One side of each box has a surface area of 0.00035km² and all boxes together, 2,765,000km². So all presents, each laid on the ground, the would cover 1/184 (510,100,000km/ 2,765,000km) of the earths surface.

ESO estimate the Pacific Ocean holds 707.5 million km3 of water. The presents, have a total volume of 2,765,000km3 (0.00035km3*7,900,000,000). They would 1/256 of the Pacific Ocean (707,500,000/2,765,000)!

Amazon’s sortable fulfillment centers are around 800,000 square feet in size (74,322 m2). Let’s assume that’s 743.22m (w) x 100m (l) x 30m (h) = 2,229,660m3 (or 0.00222966km3)… meaning Santa is going to need 6,166 of them.

An official size 5 football weighs between 410 – 450 g without packaging. Therefore accounting for the upper end of this allowance to cover potential packaging weight, the total weight of all the balls would be 3,555,000,000 kg (0.450*7,900,000,000) or 3.5 million tons.

The A380-800F (the Airbus A380 freighter) has a payload capacity of 150,000kg. So if the sleigh breaks down, Santa would need a minimum of 23,700 cargo flights (3,555,000,000kg/150,000kg). According to one source only 27 of these freighters have been produced, so would need 878 flights by each plane to distribute the presents.

Of course, the space vs weight ratio is an important factor. The A380-800F has a total hold volume of 1,134m³ (or 0.000001134km3). Yes, Santa would need A LOT more planes!

To put that into perspective, National Geographic estimate:

The world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day


Now, Santa can’t send these presents unwrapped.

A cursory glance at Amazon shows me a 4 pack of 500cmx70cm Christmas wrapping paper for about £10. Put another way £10 buys you 0.02kmx0.0007km (a total surface area of 0.000014km2).

Each of our presents has a surface area of 7.35e-7km (0.735 m2) (6*0.00035km*0.00035km).

So one pack of wrapping paper is enough for 19.048 presents 0.000014/(7.35e-7), wrapped perfectly with no overlap and no mistakes.

But we need enough for 7,900,000,000 presents!

In total, that’s 414,741,706 (7,900,000,000/19.048) packs. At £10, ignoring any bulk discounts, that’s £4,147,417,060 (£4.1 billion) just to wrap the presents!

Thinking about the environmental cost for a minute…

Thin and straight trees are used for paper making and the average log of such a tree would weigh about 50 kgs.

Roughly about 50% of the wood is converted into wood pulp. So 50 kgs of wood would make 25 kgs of pulp. Roughly, 1kg of pulp makes 1.2 kg of finished paper. Hence, 25 kgs of pulp would make 30 kgs of paper.

Assuming a 75 GSM (grams per square meter) paper weight, our pack of paper weighs 1050g (20mx0.7m*75g) or 1.05kg or 0.00105 tonnes.

The total weight of all paper required would be about 435,479 tonnes (0.00105t * 414,741,706), requiring 8,709,580 trees (435,479/0.05).

For a frame of reference, Nature report there are about 3.04 Trillion trees on Earth. According to

Throughout the world, about 900 million trees are cut down annually. This equates to about 2.47 million trees cut down every day.

So it would take 4 days worth of Earths tree-felling activities to supply the wood needed for Santa’s wrapping paper needs.

All that’s left now is tape. Let’s assume perfection, that is; we only need tape for one face (shout out to those who can neatly wrap presents, a skill I don’t posses). That’s 140cm of tape per box (35*4).

In total that’s 11,060,000km of tape needed (0.00140*7,900,000,000) — almost 276 times (11,060,000km/40,075km) around the world.

Quickly looking at Amazon, I can get 50m of Selotape for £1. Santa therefore needs 221,200,000km rolls of tape (11,060,000km/0.05km) at a total cost of £221,200,000.

I think we’ll save Santa Claus the need to write cards for each present this year…

  • Presents: £158,000,000,000
  • Wrapping Paper: £4,147,417,060
  • Tape: £221,200,000
  • Total cost (exc. Reindeer food): £162,368,617,060


Have a great Christmas for those celebrating!


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

An Estimated 11,000 International Delegates at COP 26 Will Generate 5400 Tons of CO2 emissions

At this years G7, it was only a matter of time before news stories relayed the climate outrage of politicians and their entourages flying (sometime only 100’s of km’s) into Cornwall, UK.

I share the outrage at such stories.

I expect the same at this years COP 26 conference in Glasgow this year.

According to the Energy and Climate Intel Unit:

It will involve upwards of 30,000 people in the city, representing over 200 countries, businesses, NGOs, faith groups and many more.

With such a large number of delegates in attendance, the climate footprint will be significantly greater than the G7. As my mind started whirring, I wondered if it was possible to quantify just how much impact to the environment travel to and from the conference could cause.


In 2019, the UN published the list of all delegates attending the COP 26 Summit.

In summary;

States/organisations Participants
Parties 196 11406
Observer States 1 8
United Nations Secretariat units and bodies 28 306
Specialized agencies and related organizations 23 400
Intergovernmental organizations 76 652
Non-governmental organizations 1049 7417
Media 844 2165
2217 22354

Download full dataset.

I’ll make a very rough assumption that half the attendees will come from the UK, so let’s round down and say 11,000 attendees will come from outside the UK.


CO2 per passenger

Now we know 11,000 will be flying into Glasgow, lets calculate average fuel consumption.

One way to calculate CO2 emissions is from fuel consumption per flight. Using old data (published 2010) comparing a Boeing 737-400 (short haul) and Boeing 747-400 (long haul);

Boeing 737-400 Boeing 747-400
Distance (kms) 926 5556
Fuel user (tons) 3.61 59.6
Seats 164 416
Ave load factor % 65 80
Ave pax 107 333
Fuel use (g) per pax km 36.57118312 32.23299828
CO2 emissions (g) from aviation fuel per gram of fuel 3.15 3.15
Total CO2 emissions (g) per pax km 115.1992268 101.5339446

OK, so both of these planes are quite old (both have many newer versions). Fair point. I used them as the above statistics were freely available.

According to

The aviation sector’s short-term goal to improve fleet fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% per annum from 2009-2020 is on track, with current analysis showing a 2.3% improvement on a rolling average − an efficiency improvement of 17.3% since 2009.

Let’s assume then that newer planes are 17.3% more efficient, we get an emissions figure of 89.316 g CO2 per passenger km ((101+115)/2)*(1-0.173).

This figure is very close to on reported from the International Council on Clean Transportation:

On average, passenger aviation emitted 90 grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometer in 2019

Both calculations will be a little optimistic for COP 26, as the original calculations were based on high load factors, which have reduced significantly, and still remain so, because of COVID. But let’s go with it for now…

Average travel distance per passenger

Attendees travel from all over the world, but it would appear from reports most travel will be from European delegates given location. I wasn’t able to easily break the 2019 delegate list by country (although that was held in Chile, so the delegate count by country will no doubt be quite different this year).

There has already been coverage that some nations not being able to field delegates this year due to travel restrictions. Namely in Asia, Oceanic, and African countries.

Given the above, I considered the edge of Europe, Istanbul as a rough guess for “average distance” attendees will travel.

Let’s assume then, that on average, delegate travel the distance of Istanbul to Glasgow (shortest distance = 2912 km, rounded up to 3000km, and doubled for the return journey 6000km).

Delegate emissions from flights

We now estimate delegates will have a round trip to Glasgow of about 6000km. Therefore, one passenger will produce 540kg CO2 pin CO2 emissions flying to and from the conference (0.09*6000).

For all 11,000 delegates, that’s 5,400,000 kilograms of CO2 or roughly 5400 tons of aviation CO2 emissions to fly international delegates in and out of Glasgow.

Note, this does not factor in the increased warming effect other, non-CO2, emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, have when they are released at high altitudes can also make a significant difference to emissions calculations.

What if…

Due to Glasgows position in the UK, and the fact that the UK is an island, it’s likely most people will fly into to Scotland directly.

Perhaps some Europeans will take advantage of the Eurostar to London, and then a 5 hour train journey to Glasgow, but my assumption is that a very small number of attendees will choose this route owing to the low cost, much faster air routes.

However, let’s compare aviation to other available methods of transport.

Total C02 emissions (tons) for 11000 international delegates at COP 26 by transport type

Download chart.

According to DEFRA research, driving alone is almost twice as bad as flying (11,286 tons of CO2 emissions if all international delegates drove alone)!

However, remember, we have ignored +50% of attendees, assuming them to be UK residents… many of whom will be very likely to drive (probably alone)! The 11286 tons represents a 6000km round trip. Dividing this by 10 (600km round trip for UK residents), still leaves 1128.6 tons of CO2 emissions for the driving domestic delegates.

Car sharing (assuming 4 delegates) almost cuts emissions in half from driving alone. Though, roughly, two people to a car (probably more realistic) delivers the same emissions as a comparable plane journey, per passenger, over the same distance.

Unsurprisingly rail is much more efficient when it comes to CO2 emissions per passenger (lets hope most UK delegates choose this over a solo car car journey as rail is 6.3 times more efficient). Sadly, the UK doesn’t have a highly efficient rail infrastructure like that of the Eurostar (which is over 4 times more efficient than general rail). Is HS2 still happening?


This really is a “back-of-the-napkin” analysis. Journalists, please don’t credibly cite these figures unless you make this clear!


The 22,000+ delegates (under-estimate) travelling to the COP 26 conference in Glasgow are likely to generate over 10,000 tons in CO2 emissions.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

There are over 200 electrically propelled aircraft projects in development (though most have a range far below 200 kilometers)

269 billion litres of jet fuel was burned in 2017 — Enough fuel to fill 5.4 billion VW Golfs

We’ve all seen the headlines; commercial aviation is bad for the environment.

If the industry bounces back to pre-COVID growth, which most analysts believe will be the case, an alternative to fossil fuels is desperately required to stop the devastating impacts of global warming.

Whilst electric cars are now at a point where they can compete (and out-do) oil powered cars, the size and power requirements of planes have meant further improvements to battery technologies are required before we see electric aircraft.

According to Elon Musk in 2019:

But two years is a long time in battery technology.

How close are we to electric powered commercial aviation? I decided to take a look at the current state of the market.


For this analysis I used a report produced by Roland Berger in 2020 on the electric aircraft industry which reported detailed information about 218 planes. The numbers include planes across all stages of development from concepts to airworthy models (albeit there are currently very few).


Count of Aircraft by Market (2020)

Count of Aircraft by Market

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Download full table.

Urban air taxis still dominate the scene, representing about 45% of all aircraft, though general aviation (typically recreational planes) is close behind, comprising 85 projects globally.

Count of Aircraft by Type (2020)

Count of Aircraft by Type

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Download full table.

48% of all projects are VTOL (vertical take off and landing) craft. Given most projects are focused on short range / intercity aviation, likely operating in cities, VTOL makes most sense.

Count of Aircraft by Power Type

Count of Aircraft by Power Type

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Download full table.

Battery power (including hybrid battery / oil) powered planes account for 97% of all projects.

Solar and hydrogen make up the rest. Solar being employed in concepts for general aviation for small recreational planes. Hydrogen seems to be attractive to manufacturers building autonomous craft, like HES developing the Element One.

The majority of all these planes are using propellors for propulsion although a tiny number of projects like Airbus’s E-Fan-X are using turbofan engines.

Pax capacity of battery powered aircraft (2020)

Pax capacity of battery powered aircraft (2020)

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Download full table.

Looking at the 122 battery powered plane projects that report passenger capacity, the maximum capacity is 19, touted by Heart Aerospace’s concept.

The mean/median passenger load is 2, which highlights how most planned aircraft are aimed at consumers (potential replacements for cars).

Range of battery powered aircraft (inc. estimates) (2020)

Range of battery powered aircraft (inc. estimates) (2020)

Download chart.

Download full table.

Looking at the 53 battery powered planes that have reported range in distance (keep in mind these are for the most part estimates), all but 4 have ranges below 1000km. The median advertised range of these aircraft is 150km (mean is 298km).

The aircraft with the longest range, 2000km, is Avioneo’s conceptual 2345 craft. Wether it makes it to market is questionable, but it currently boasts costs of 0.12EUR per/km with a cruise speed of up to 300 km/h.


Many of these projects are small and will probably never enter the market. Most information being reported is estimated (and in many cases not even estimates, e.g. for range, are provided), as the planes are still mostly in conceptual phase.

At best this post can be considered a projection on the market. It needs revisiting in one years time, when it is likely a good number of viable planes will be entering early construction and some certifications being conducted.


The median advertised range of battery powered aircraft is 150km… most are still in concept phase. Electrically powered international commercial aviation is still some way off. On the other-hand, city based short-haul aviation is looking like a brand new market that might be realised in the near-future.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The true scale of COVID travel restrictions on tourism based economies (72% of Macau’s GDP comes from tourism)

In 2017, or 3 BC (Before COVID), I looked at the amount the average tourist spent in a country compared to the average incomes of the populations.

Fast forward to 2019, or 1 AC (After COVID), and the international travel industry is still full of restrictions for travellers having a significant impact on tourism.

Listening to stories coming out resorts here in Europe that are built around tourism, it is heart-breaking to hear of the challenges they are facing after another year of reduced tourist numbers.

I can imagine many countries entire economies are driven from tourism income. In this months post I decided to take a look the countries most reliant on tourists, and thus likely most impacted by another summer of travel restrictions.


The World Travel and Tourism Council Data have curated an annual dataset, starting in 2000 to 2019, that details the tourism percentage that accounts for each countries GDP. Tourism considers both domestic and international visitors.

For actual GDP figures, I used data produced by the World Bank.


Tourism as % of countries GDP (2019)

Tourism as % of countries GDP (2019)

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Rank by GDP/tourism (2019) Country % tourism of GDP 2019
1 Macau 72.00
2 Maldives 66.10
3 Seychelles 65.80
4 St Kitts and Nevis 62.60
5 Grenada 55.80
171 Moldova 3.20
172 Libya 3.10
173 South Korea 2.80
174 Democratic Republic of Congo 1.80
175 Papua New Guinea 1.60

Download full table.

In Macau 72% of its GDP come from tourism ($39.7 billion). Not surprising given much of their economy is driven by Chinese tourists coming to gamble in its numerous casinos (so with more relaxed restrictions, probably not as affected as Las Vegas). Unsurprisingly, tropical Indian and Caribbean islands are all heavily reliant on tourism (and likely much more impacted by travel bans).

South Korea is one of the least reliant countries on tourism. Just 2.8% of their GDP came from tourism in 2019! Other developed countries have single digit percentage reliance on tourism (e.g. USA 7.8%, France 9.6%), but even 1% increase is a significant amount of money when you’re talking about GDP’s in the trillions of dollars (US GDP was 21.4 trillion in 2019).

Change in tourism as % GDP (2000 – 2019)

Change in tourism as % GDP (2000 - 2019)

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Rank by GDP/tourism (2019) Country Tourism % of GDP 2000 – 2019 change
7 Cape Verde 28.90
1 Macau 24.70
10 Belize 22.20
2 Maldives 21.30
4 St Kitts and Nevis 18.50
8 St Vincent and the Grenadines -6.50
9 Antigua and Barbuda -8.00
25 Cyprus -8.40
6 Vanuatu -11.10
52 Bahrain -16.20

Download full table.

Many economies have tried to boost incomes through tourism in the last few decades. Macau reliance’s on tourism was 24.7% higher in 2019 than in 2000.

Other countries have suffered in a reduction in tourists due to various factors (political, environmental and economic), or have realised a dependance on tourism alone can be risky… as highlighted by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

USD value of tourism vs tourism as % of GDP (2019)

USD value of tourism vs tourism as % of GDP (2019)

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Rank by GDP/tourism (2019) Country Tourism % of GDP 2019 Tourism value 2019 (USD)
113 United States 7.80 $1,671,791,526,366.00
71 China 10.90 $1,556,513,183,949.98
120 Japan 7.50 $379,865,465,670.34
101 Germany 8.60 $332,056,625,991.37
72 United Kingdom 10.90 $308,558,672,344.41
162 Burundi 4.30 $129,529,284.66
20 Sao Tome and Principe 27.40 $117,114,460.87
82 Comoros 9.90 $115,418,150.08
30 Tonga 20.60 $105,544,112.24
34 Kiribati 19.00 $36,982,968.37

Download chart.

$1.67 trillion dollars of the US economy (7.8% of GDP) was earned through tourism in 2019. This figure includes domestic and international tourism. With many international citizens still banned from entering the US, it is very likely 100’s of billions of Dollars have been lost in tourism receipts over the last 18 months.

The $32.9 million Kiribati earned through tourism (19% of GDP) might seem very small (some football players earn more than that in a year), but it’s worth noting the actual population of the country in 2019 was only 117,606.


Tourism is a very broad term that includes hotel bookings, travel, attractions, and much more. It would be valuable to know how tourism money is spent in each country, and as a result, which industries in each country suffer most from a reduction in tourism.


72% of Macau’s GDP comes from tourism, that’s $39.7 billion… and that number is growing (by 24.7% between 2000 and 2019).


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

614 gold medals will be handed out at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, but how much are they worth?


And almost every other worldwide sporting event.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the Athletics sessions at the London 2012 games.

I’m writing this post as the Olympics kick off in Tokyo. 8 hours behind London, I find myself waking up to news of Gold medals. It’s one of those periods where you need to shut off from any form of media to avoid spoilers.

Sadly, spectators are banned from the games this year. Whilst I fully understand the decision, and agree with it, my chances of spending part of the summer in Tokyo were again dashed, as they were in 2020. Maybe next year…

Even without spectators, the Olympics requires a full scale logistics effort to get all teams to Japan. In this months post, I decided to look at what a herculean effort is required.


I used IOC data for events and information about medals.

Note for team events, I’ve counted team size as players on the field (e.g. football = 11 players). The actual team size to include substitutes is not considered in this post, even though these team members will be eligible for medals.

All prices (flights and materials cost) use prices correct on July 31st 2021.


Count of athletes at Tokyo 2020 by team

Count of athletes at Tokyo 2020 by team

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Rank (count athletes) Team Count of athletes
10 ROC 328
9 Italy 372
8 Great Britain 376
7 Canada 381
6 France 398
5 China 406
4 Germany 425
3 Australia 478
2 Japan 552
1 United States 613

Download full table.

At this years Olympics, 11,313 athletes will be competing.

Many athletes share rooms in the Olympic village, which leaves a requirement for at least 5,657 athlete rooms.

Assuming 3 meals per day (but likely probably much more) that’s 33,939 servings per day. If all athletes are there for 17 days (duration of Olympic event calendar), that’s a total of 576,963 meals.

Estimated cost of flying athletes to Tokyo 2020

Skyscanner London to Tokyo July 2022

A quick look at direct flights from London (LHR) to Tokyo (HND) in summer 2022 (1st July – 14th July), shows the cheapest economy ticket at £779 from British Airways. Let’s assume all GBR athletes booked in advance and flew this ticket in 2021, and ignoring training staff and equipment (how do you get horses to the Olympics?), gives a total transport cost of £292,904 (376*£779) for GBR.

Assuming the same average ticket cost for all athletes (minus Japan) gives a total of £8,382,819 (10,761*£779) of flight costs!

At this Olympics many athletes are required to fly home immediately after competing, meaning that all of these tickets will need to be made flexible at additional cost… or perhaps being an Olympian waives change fees?

Count events at 2020 Olympics by discipline

Count events at 2020 Olympics by discipline

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Rank (count events) Sport (Discipline) Body Count events 2020
9 Canoe/kayak (sprint) ICF 12
9 Track cycling UCI 12
9 Freestyle wrestling UWW 12
9 Fencing FIE 12
8 Boxing AIBA 13
5 Artistic FIG 14
5 Rowing FISA 14
5 Weightlifting IWF 14
3 Judo IJF 15
3 Shooting ISSF 15
2 Swimming FINA 35
1 Athletics WAthle 48

Download full table.

Athletics (48) and swimming (35) events have over twice as many events as any other discipline (male and female events are counted individually). Surprisingly, shooting (15), judo (15) and weightlifting (14) are joint 3rd and 5th by count of events.

In total there are 50 sports, across 20 disciplines, representing 339 events in total. This is five more sports and 18 new events compared to Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Count of events by gender at Tokyo 2020

Count of events by gender at Tokyo 2020

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Type Count of events
Mens events 165
Womens events 156
Mixed events 18

In the 1896 Athens games there were no women’s events. How far we’ve come.

In Rio 2016 there were 161 men’s events and 145 women’s events, so the balancing of genders in 2020 is getting closer to even.

It’s important to remember as much as male only events still occur, some events still remain women only too, like synchronized swimming.

There are also 18 mixed events at this years games, 9 more than at Rio 2016.

Medals awarded

Although there are 339 medal events, many more medals are awarded. This is due to the fact that some events are team based (4 x 100m sprint, etc.) where each participant gets a medal.

To make things even more complex, some teams rotate athletes during qualification phases. Athletes that take part in qualification, but do not compete in the final, are also still eligible for a medal.

Considering only the number of players on the field (e.g. 11 players for football) there would be a total of 614 athletes eligible for medals, or 1,842 medals total (614 x (1 gold + 1 silver + 1 bronze)).

Roughly, 1 in every 7 athletes who compete will win a medal (11,313 athletes /1842 medals).

Cost of medals

In April 2017, the Tokyo Olympic Medal Project started. The goal: to salvage 100% of the metals required to make the approximately 5,000 Olympic medals from unwanted electronic devices.

In total, the government collected several million tonnes of equipment, and extracted 32 kilograms of gold, 3500 kilograms of silver and 2200 kilograms of copper and zinc for the bronze medals.

In all, it took 78,985 tons of donated devices, including approximately 6.21 million mobile phones.

  • Gold medals have a mass of 556 grams (1.2% gold, 98.8% silver)
  • Silver medals have a mass of 550 grams (100% silver)
  • Bronze medals have a mass of 450 grams (95% copper, 5% zinc)

At the time of writing rough wholesale prices are as as follow;

  • 1g of gold = £42.03
  • 1g of silver = £0.59
  • 1g of copper = £0.006
  • 1g of zinc = £0.002

So the team collected £1,344,960.00 worth of gold, £2,065,000.00 of silver and £12,760.00 of copper and zinc (based on material composition of bronze medal below).

The total collected considers all medals, including those for the Paralympics.

Looking again at the Olympics only…

Cost per medal

Gold Silver Bronze
Mass (g) 556 550 450
Total material cost GBP £604.53 £324.50 £2.61

You can see the inclusion of just 6g of gold makes the gold medal almost twice as expensive in materials cost than the silver. Bronze medals look like a bargain.

Cost of all medals

Total cost of medals at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Download chart.

Considering the 1,842 medals awarded (614 of each type) gives a total value of medals of £575,230.62. Ignoring the costs to recycle the materials, the organisers managed to save some money here.

Medals sold at auction

The most expensive Olympic gold ever is the iconic medal won by African American sprinter Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany, sold at an auction in 2013 for $1.5m.

Ukrainian boxer Waldimir Klitschko sold his 1996 boxing gold medal for $1m in 2012 and donated the proceeds to charity.


Materials costs considered wholesale market costs of materials. Seeing as all materials were donated, a better calculation for cost to produce (vs. value) would look at recycling costs. Similarly, it would also be interesting to consider the consumer value of materials, which will be much higher than wholesale.

Flight costs were also calculated in a very rough way. It would be much more accurate to consider ticket costs from each country. With numbers from the IOC (including auxiliary team staff) I could come up with a much more thorough analysis of total people travelling to the games in each team too.

I’d also like to include the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games, not considered in this analysis.


At this years Olympics, 11,313 athletes will be competing in 339 events. In total, 1,842 medals will be awarded with a rough value of £575,230!


Olympic 2020 data sources

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Plane You’re Flying on is Newer than Your Car

Four years ago I wrote how larger airlines (by fleet size) tend to offer worse service than their smaller counterparts.

In last months post I looked at the oldest commercial planes still operating (tl;dr, some are very old).

Many older planes are unnoticeable from their newer counterparts with newer interiors fitted.

Though can redecoration really hide 40 years of use? How does the age of a fleet impact customer satisfaction?


I took Skytrax 2019 World’s Best Airline rankings to get an ordered list of 100 airlines.

For aircraft count and ages for planes operated by these airlines I then used data from AirFleets.


Average age of airline fleet

Average age of airline fleet

Download chart.

Skytrax rank Airline Airline year started Average age of fleet (yrs) Count of planes in fleet
88 Air Seychelles 1979 1.6 2
69 Vistara 2014 3.1 47
51 Air Astana 2001 3.5 19
94 LEVEL 2017 3.9 3
86 Peach 2011 4.2 34
68 United Airlines 1931 16.4 807
100 Icelandair 1937 17.9 25
73 AtlasGlobal 1992 23.3 69
85 PAL Express 1972 25.8 14
28 Asiana Airlines 1988 33.1 85

Download full table.

The median age of planes in Skytrax 100 fleets is just 9 years (mean age is 9.7 years).

Asiana Airlines, ranked 25th in the Skytrax ranking (and last by average fleet age) has an average fleet age of 33.1 years. They are the only airline in the bottom 10 for aircraft age to have a Skytrax ranking above 50th!

It’s also worth noting the divide between old and new airlines. The newest fleets are operated by airlines established post 2000, whereas the older fleets tend to be operated by some of the oldest airlines.

Correlation between Skytrax rank and fleet age

Correlation between Skytrax rank and fleet age

Download chart.

A cursory glance at the graph above shows no correlation between age of aircraft and Skytrax rank.

Some of the newest fleets have the worst scores, which is understandable as they are generally smaller with less money to spend on overall customer experience (a factor of Skytrax ranking).


I’ve used aggregate stats on each airline for the analysis. The next step for me would be to look at each airline and see the spread of ages for each aircraft. For instance, in United Airlines fleet of 807 planes; are there very old planes? Lack of new planes? Or a spread of all ages that contribute to the fleets overall average age of 16.4 years?


The median age of planes in Skytrax 100 fleets is just 9 years (mean age is 9.7 years).


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Plane You’re Flying on is 47 Years Old

Airbus announced that it would cease production of the A380 a few years ago with the final plane rolling off the production line this year.

248 A380’s have been delivered since it entered production in 2003, the first order being delivered in October 2007, fourteen years ago.

Boeing also recently announced the end of production of its 747 in 2022though its life stretches back an impressive 50 years with over 1500 delivered!

50 years!

Which got me thinking; what are the oldest planes still flying commercially? Are there any 50 year old 747’s still in service?


I used production list search for each major aircraft type still flying. reports the status of the plane, including the last flight recorded, however, it seems these dates are manually submitted by users (some are very old). Therefore, I verified dates with

I consider planes still in service if they made a flight in 2020 — my assumption being many have been temporarily taken out of service due to the reduction in air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only planes that had first flights before 1990 are considered.

I do not consider military or non-commercial passenger operators (e.g. military or shipping).


Difference between first flight ever and oldest commercial model in operation first flew

Oldest commercial plane still in operation by model vs. first flight (April 2021)

Download chart.

Manufacturer/model First commercial flight of model Oldest plane still in operation first flew Years between first and oldest
Boeing 737 1967-05-13 1974-05-09 6
Boeing 747 1969-05-10 1984-02-28 14
Airbus A300 1972-10-28 1986-12-31 14
Boeing 767 1981-11-04 1982-09-25 0
Airbus A310 1982-04-03 1989-03-08 6
Boeing 757 1982-10-25 1988-02-19 5
Embraer 120 Brasilia 1983-07-27 1986-03-21 2
De Havilland Canada Dash 8 1983-10-26 1985-09-11 1
Airbus A320 1987-02-22 1989-04-25 2

Download full table.

Older 747’s and A300’s seems to leave service quickly, relatively speaking — the oldest planes still flying are 14 years older than the first models that flew.

Conversely, the 737 has remarkable longevity with some of the oldest versions still in operation delivered only 6 years longer than the first ever commercial flight of the model (and first delivered before the 747 and A300).

Age of oldest commercial model still flying

Age of oldest commercial plane still in operation by model

Download chart.

Manufacturer/model Oldest plane still in operation first flew Todays date Age (years)
Airbus A310 1989-03-08 2021-05-31 32
Airbus A320 1989-04-25 2021-05-31 32
Boeing 757 1988-02-19 2021-05-31 33
Airbus A300 1986-12-31 2021-05-31 34
De Havilland Canada Dash 8 1985-09-11 2021-05-31 35
Embraer 120 Brasilia 1986-03-21 2021-05-31 35
Boeing 747 1984-02-28 2021-05-31 37
Boeing 767 1982-09-25 2021-05-31 38
Boeing 737 1974-05-09 2021-05-31 47

Download full table.

C-GNLK, a 737 currently operated by Nolinor Aviation has been flying for over 47 years — almost 10 years longer than any other model.

By aircraft type

Boeing 737
  • First commercial flight of type:
    • Registration: N701PJ
    • First flight: 1967-05-13
    • Status: Scrapped
    • AirFleets info
  • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Boeing 747
  • First commercial flight of type:
    • Registration: N474EV
    • First flight: 1969-05-10
    • Status: Scrapped
    • AirFleets info
  • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Boeing 757
  • First commercial flight of type:
    • Registration: G-BIKA
    • First flight: 1982-10-25
    • Status: Scrapped
    • AirFleets info
  • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Boeing 767
  • First commercial flight of type:
      • Registration: N601UA
      • First flight: 1981-11-04
      • Status: Scrapped
      • AirFleets info
    • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Airbus A300
  • First commercial flight of type:
      • Registration: F-OCAZ
      • First flight: 1972-10-28
      • Status: Scrapped
      • AirFleets info
    • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Airbus A310
  • First commercial flight of type:
      • Registration: N450FE
      • First flight: 1982-04-03
      • Status: Stored
      • AirFleets info
    • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Airbus A320
  • First commercial flight of type:
      • Registration: F-WWBA
      • First flight: 1987-02-22
      • Status: Stored
      • AirFleets info
    • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
De Havilland Canada Dash 8
  • First commercial flight of type:
      • Registration: C-GGMP
      • First flight: 1983-10-26
      • Status: Stored
      • AirFleets info
    • Oldest plane still in commercial service:
Embraer 120 Brasilia
  • First commercial flight of type:
      • Registration: PT-ZBA
      • First flight: 1983-07-27
      • Status: Stored
      • AirFleets info
    • Oldest plane still in commercial service:


The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and MD-11 didn’t quite make this list, but only because I considered commercial, passenger carrying commercial airlines. Currently, these planes are only operated by Air Forces and logistics companies. FedEx operate N303FE, a DC-10 that’s 48.1 years old!

I’ve also only included major manufactures I am aware of and is listed on AirFleets. It would be worth validating if there are airlines flying from other manufacturers I am unaware of (I suspect there might be some in Russia).

Finally, I’ve only considered a single plane of each model. Keep in mind, 26% of all commercial airliners are 737’s — there will be many other of these old models still flying.


C-GNLK, a 737 currently operated by Nolinor Aviation has been flying for over 47 years — almost 10 years longer than any other model.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

All the COVID-19 Vaccines Required by the UK Could Easily Fit into Two Fuel Tankers

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has seen successes, stumbling blocks and inequalities.

Thinking about vaccine development, it’s quite astounding that within one year pharmaceutical companies have developed, manufactured, and distributed hundreds-of-millions of doses.

With restrictions in travel looking like they might be removed for those fully vaccinated,  I decided to take a deeper look at just how impressive this feat is.

A big shout out to those involved in the vaccine programs and everyone involved health care workers around the world — thank you!


I first obtained a list of all approved vaccines around the world;

Name Vaccine Type Primary Developers Country of Origin Authorization/Approval
Comirnaty (BNT162b2) mRNA-based vaccine Pfizer, BioNTech; Fosun Pharma Multinational Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Caribbean, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, European Union, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, UK, US, Vatican City, WHO
Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine (mRNA-1273) mRNA-based vaccine Moderna, BARDA, NIAID US Andorra, Canada, European Union, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Mongolia, Norway, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam
COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca (AZD1222); also known as Vaxzevria and Covishield Adenovirus vaccine BARDA, OWS UK Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eswatani, Ethiopia, European Union, Faroe Islands, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greenland, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, Vietnam, WHO
Sputnik V Recombinant adenovirus vaccine (rAd26 and rAd5) Gamaleya Research Institute, Acellena Contract Drug Research and Development Russia Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Republika Srpska, Russia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen (JNJ-78436735; Ad26.COV2.S) Non-replicating viral vector Janssen Vaccines (Johnson & Johnson) The Netherlands, US Andorra, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, European Union, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, US, WHO
CoronaVac Inactivated vaccine (formalin with alum adjuvant) Sinovac China Albania, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Zimbabwe
BBIBP-CorV Inactivated vaccine Beijing Institute of Biological Products; China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) China Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guyana, Hungary, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macau, Maldives, Mauritania, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, UAE, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
EpiVacCorona Peptide vaccine Federal Budgetary Research Institution State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Russia Belarus, Russia, Turkmenistan
Convidicea (Ad5-nCoV) Recombinant vaccine (adenovirus type 5 vector) CanSino Biologics China Chile, China, Hungary, Mexico, Pakistan
Covaxin Inactivated vaccine Bharat Biotech, ICMR India Guyana, India, Iran, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Paraguay, Zimbabwe
WIBP-CorV Inactivated vaccine Wuhan Institute of Biological Products; China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) China China
CoviVac Inactivated vaccine Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune and Biological Products Russia Russia
ZF2001 Recombinant vaccine Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical, Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences China, Uzbekistan China, Uzbekistan”

Full table.

There are 13 approved vaccines around the world. Approval varies by country via their medical bodies.

60 vaccines are still in development at the time of writing.

For this analysis I am going to be using the vaccines approved for use in the UK (where I live), which are at the time of writing;

  • Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine (mRNA-1273) (Moderna, BARDA, NIAID)
  • Comirnaty (BNT162b2) (Pfizer, BioNTech; Fosun Pharma)
  • COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca (AZD1222); also known as Vaxzevria and Covishield (BARDA, OWS)

Pricing of the each vaccine varies by country, so I used EU costs (which are likely to be on the lower end of the scale).

I used each manufacturers documentation to obtain dosage size.


Available Vaccines

Vaccine Dosage ml Number of doses required
Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine 0.5 2
Comirnaty 0.3 2
COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca 0.5 2

Full table.

Required Vaccine Volume (UK)

The United Kingdom 2020 population is estimated to be 67,886,011 according to UN data.

Let’s assume the average person receives a single dose of 0.5 ml (which also somewhat accounts for loss), so 1 ml for both required doses of the approved vaccines.

This gives us a total requirement of 67,886,011 ml, or 67,886.011 litres.

A fuel tanker holds roughly 36,000 litres according to this thread, meaning only two would be required to store the whole of the UK’s vaccine requirement!

Vaccine costs

EU countries pay $2.15 per dose of the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine according to the BMJ, much cheaper than the cost of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine ($14.70) and Moderna vaccine ($15).

The mean vaccine cost of these three options is $10.73** per dose ($15 + $14.70 + $2.5)/3).

Full vaccine dose (ave) cost USD

Download chart.

Rank by population Country (or dependency) Population (2020) Mean cost
1 Germany 83,783,942 $1,779,012,368.47
2 France 65,273,511 $1,385,974,216.90
3 Italy 60,461,826 $1,283,806,105.40
4 Spain 46,754,778 $992,759,786.20
5 Poland 37,846,611 $803,609,706.90

Full table.

Assuming a mean average vaccination cost, Germany with a population of almost 84 million will pay about $1.8 billion to vaccinate its entire population.

In the UK, with a population of 67,886,011, the mean average cost to totally vaccinate the entire population stands at $1,441,446,300.23.

Assuming the UK needs 67,886,011 litres of the vaccine, at a cost of $1.44 billion. That equates to $21,233.33 per litre ($1,441,446,300.23 / 67,886.011).

One tanker can therefore hold an average of $764,399,880 worth of ($21,233.33*36000), assuming EU costs. Drive safely tankers!

The UK government’s Vaccines Taskforce alone has secured early access to 457 million doses, so that’s 228,500,000 ml worth of vaccine at a cost of $4,851,816,666.67 ($4.85 billion)!.

Worldwide, that’s 15,800,000 litres of vaccine required with an estimated average cost of $167,743,333,333 ($167.74 billion!).


This is a very rough analysis using aggregated data. It is likely raw figures will be shared over time which can be used to improve this analysis.


Worldwide, 15,800,000 litres of COVID-19 vaccine is required with an estimated cost of $167.74 billion!


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Container Ship that can Carry 29 Billion USD Worth of iPhones

On the south coast (UK) I’m accustom to seeing huge container ships slowly pass through the English Channel.

From many kilometers away these ships look huge, though I never really gave them a second thought.

That was until the Ever Given became stuck in the Suez Canal a few weeks ago, and a photo of a large bulldozer looked like a toy truck when stood next to the ships hull.

Turns out these ships are huge, and much, much bigger than I first thought.


Container TEU

The twenty-foot equivalent unit (abbreviated TEU or teu) is an inexact unit of cargo capacity, often used for measuring container ships and container ports. It is based on the volume of a 20-foot-long (6.1 m) intermodal container, a standard-sized metal box which can be easily transferred between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains, and trucks.

All other costs and analysis can be assumed correct at time of writing (March 30th).


Largest Shipping Companies

Rank Company name Headquarters Total TEU Ships
1 Maersk Denmark 4,097,898 705
2 Mediterranean Shipping Company Switzerland, Italy 3,860,388 579
3 COSCO Shipping China, Hong Kong 3,022,882 503
4 CMA CGM France 3,015,485 570
5 Hapag-Lloyd Germany 1,730,615 240
6 Ocean Network Express Japan 1,577,156 218
7 Evergreen Marine Taiwan 1,279,412 195
8 Hyundai Merchant Marine South Korea 719,026 72
9 Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation Taiwan 623,148 92
10 Zim Integrated Shipping Services Israel 356,201 80

Full table.

Largest shipping companies by total TEU (Mar 2021)

Download chart.

You have probably seen many of these names printing on the side of ships previously.

Maersk, the largest company by TEU capacity, has capacity for almost 4.1 million containers (TEU’s) on 705 ships.

There is a large difference of carrying capacity between largest and tenth largest shipping companies. The tenth largest, Zim Integrated Shipping Services, has a maximum carrying capacity of just over 356,000 TEU’s on 80 ships — about 8% of what Maersk can carry (TEU’s).

Largest Container Ships

Container ships have been built in increasingly larger sizes to take advantage of economies of scale. Though container ships are also subject to certain limitations in size.

Primarily, these are the availability of sufficiently large main engines and the availability of a sufficient number of ports and terminals prepared and equipped to handle ultra-large container ships.

Furthermore, some of the world’s main waterways such as the Suez Canal and Singapore Strait also restrict the maximum dimensions of a ship that can pass through them.

Rank Count of ships in category Built Operator Length overall (m) Beam (m) Maximum TEU Gross Tonnage
1 7 2020 HMM (South Korea) 399.9 61 23,964 228,283
2 5 2020 HMM (South Korea) 399.9 61.5 23,820 232,311
3 6 2019 MSC (Switzerland) 399.9 61.5 23,756 232,618
4 5 2019 MSC (Switzerland) 399.8 61 23,656 228,741
5 6 2020 CMA CGM (France) 399.9 61.3 23,112 236,583
6 6 2017 OOCL (Hong Kong) 399.9 58.8 21,413 210,890
7 6 2018 COSCO (China) 400 58.6 21,237 215,553
8 3 2018 CMA CGM (France) 400 59 20,954 219,277
9 11 2017 Maersk (Denmark) 399 58.6 20,568 214,286
10 2 2017 ONE (Japan) 399 58 20,182 210,691
11 4 2017 ONE (Japan) 400 58.8 20,170 210,678
12 4 2019 Evergreen (Taiwan) 400 58.8 20,160 219,775
13 7 2018 Evergreen (Taiwan) 400 58.8 20,124 219,079
14 5 2018 COSCO (China) 399.8 58.7 20,119 194,864

Full table.

Largest container ships (TEU) by class (2021)

Download chart.

Yes, that’s right… the largest container ship in the world can carry 23,964 containers (TEU)!

To purchase and launch this ship cost its owners, the Korean company, HMM, over $140 million. HMM own 7. Thats a total value of $980 for these 7 ships. Which doesn’t sound to bad considering that a private Airbus A380 (when on sale) was priced at $402m to buy.

Payload Value

You could put 2,660 boxes full of iPhone X’s in 40-foot shipping container. One TEU is half that size, so 1,330 in a standard TEU.

The cheapest iPhone 12 is $799 and most expansive $1,399. Let’s assume an average retail price of $1,099.

Assuming the box size of the iPhone X and price of the iPhone 12, a single TEU could carry $1,241,870 ($1,099 x 1,330) worth of the devices.

If all TEU’s (23,964) on the largest container ship were full of iPhones, that’s a total of 27,079,320 iPhones with a combined retail value of $29,760,172,680 (29 Billion).

For reference, Apple sold 218 million iPhones in 2018. So the largest container ship can supply around 12% of the world total iPhone demand alone.

Fuel costs

The OOCL Hong Kong, in the 6th largest class of ship, can carry 14,904 cubic litres of fuel (or 14,904,000 litres). In comparison, an Airbus A380’s fuel tank can carry 320,000 litres.

Today, the Global 20 Ports Average Bunker Cost (bulk fuel cost) is $500 per US metric tonne. Let’s assume 1 metric ton of fuel = 1.192 kiloliters (note: this is a rough estimate as it assumes fuel is diesel, which is compositionally slightly different to heavy fuel used in ships). Given this, $500 buys 1192 litres, or 1 litre = $0.42.

That means, at todays prices it will cost $6,251,678.27 ((14,904,001*$0.42) to fill the OOCL Hong Kong’s fuel tanks.

I couldn’t find specific data on engine consumption. The amount of fuel actually used on a sailing depends primarily on the ship’s speed. Most ship engines have been designed for top speeds ranging between 20 and 25 knots per hour, which is between 23 and 28 miles per hour.

At a high level I found a Panamax container ship (Panamax and New Panamax are terms for the size limits for ships travelling through the Panama Canal)  consumes about 63,000 gallons of marine fuel per day at optimum speed.

63,000 gallons = 286,403.67 litres. So thats $120,289.54 per day! Enough for 52 days at sea (14,904,000/286,403.67).

The Ever Given Problem

When the Ever Given was blocking the Suez Canal, shipping companies had two options; wait, or head around the Cape of Good Hope.

According to Refinitiv via the New York Times:

A journey from the Suez Canal in Egypt to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands — Europe’s largest port — typically takes about 11 days. Venturing south around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope adds at least 26 more days, according to Refinitiv, the financial data company.

So fuel costs for waiting would be around $1,323,184.94 ($120,289.54*11) for the rest of the journey.

Redirecting via the Cape of Good Hope would cost around $4,450,712.98 ($120,289.54*37). $3,127,528.04 more expensive than via the Suez Canal ($4,450,712.98-$1,323,184.94).

A rough estimate provided using this calculator, puts the cost of the largest ships operated by HMM (South Korea) travelling through the Suez Canal at about $800,000 in fees. Even with these fees factored it, it is still significantly cheaper than going around.

In the end the Suez was only blocked for 6 days, so even with a backlog of ships waiting to move through, it would have been more cost effective (and time effective) to have waited (though hindsight is a wonderful thing!).


In the case of converting gross tonnes to litres I use diesel fuel as the fuel type (not heavy marine fuel) to provide a rough estimation. I could not find any liquid conversion measurement tables for marine fuel, but these would make the fuel calculations significantly more accurate.

Access to fuel consumption data for the worlds largest ships would also improve fuel estimations produced in this post.


The worlds largest container ship can hold 23,964 container (TEU) — enough to carry $29 billion USD worth of iPhones.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.