The largest cargo ship ever to visit the United States, the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, arrived at Harbor Island’s Terminal 18 on Monday, packed with electronics, clothing, furniture and sporting goods.
The largest cargo ship to visit the United States, the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, arrived in Seattle Monday morning.
It is expected to berth at The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Terminal 18 in Seattle.
The vessel is longer than the Empire State Building, wider than a football field, and as tall as a 20-floor building, according to CMA CGM, a French container shipping company. (That’s 1,300 feet long, 177 feet wide, and 197 feet tall.)
It has a capacity of 18,000 TEUs (or twenty foot equivalent units — the standard unit of measurement for cargo capacity).
“It’ll probably be several years before we see something that big again,” said Northwest Seaport Alliance spokesman Peter McGraw. “But we’ll be seeing larger vessels in the 13,000 to 14,000 size before that.”
Typical-size container vessels run in the 8,000 to10,000 TEUs range — a rapid change from 10 years ago, when 6,000 TEUs was the average, he said.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance is a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
The Benjamin Franklin is stopping in Seattle, after previous stops in Long Beach and Oakland, as part of a test call to see how quickly cranes at the ports can load and unload and how quickly containers can be brought to and taken from the port, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Because the Benjamin Franklin greatly exceeds the size of ships the ports usually see, the test call will show what parts of the infrastructure need to be expanded or upgraded.
For the alliance, the Benjamin Franklin’s arrival is meant to show that it is ready to handle the biggest cargo ships operating today. That’s important to its competitiveness, as shipping companies are increasingly using bigger and bigger vessels.
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Terminal 18 already has the cranes to handle this size vessel, and the alliance is upgrading Terminal 5 to make it big-ship ready as well, McGraw said.
Seattle is not part of the Benjamin Franklin’s regular route.
The ship has made other stops before this and, in Seattle, will be unloading cargo from China including electronics, clothing, furniture and sporting goods intended for the likes of Target, Best Buy and Amazon, McGraw said.
It will be loading up on agricultural goods from eastern Washington including hay, lentil, apples and lumber, as well as machine parts.
The ship is expected to leave Seattle at 8 a.m. Tuesday.