By Mark Edward Nero
The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, an 18,000-TEU megaship named in honor of one of America’s founding fathers, is expected to call at the Port of Los Angeles on Dec. 26 and the Port of Oakland on Dec. 31, making it the largest container ship of this capacity ever to call at any port in the United States.
The vessel, operated by France-based shipping line CMA CGM, is the world’s 10th largest containership, at 399.2 meters (about 1,310 feet) by 54 meters (177 feet). It was launched from a Chinese shipyard in November and delivered Dec. 4.
The ship is expected to be deployed on the Pearl River Express, a service connecting the main China ports – including Xiamen, Nansha and Yantian – with US West Coast ports, including the APM terminal at the Port of LA’s Pier 400.
“It’s fitting that the largest container ship to ever traverse North American waters would make its first call right here at the Port of Los Angeles,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a prepared statement. “The arrival of the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin sends a powerful message that our port stands among the world’s greatest, and that we are prepared to continue growing and adapting to the demands of our global economy.”
Currently, the largest ships serving the US West Coast can only carry a maximum of 14,000 TEUs. CMA CGM says it has been working closely with the Los Angeles and Oakland ports to ensure there is sufficient infrastructure to support the 18,000-TEU vessel and that it looks forward to working with other ports throughout the US as they begin similar assessments of their infrastructure.
The Port of Oakland says that included among the steps it has taken to improve its infrastructure are dredging berths and channels to 50-foot depths; raising the height of cranes that load and unload vessels; and modernizing marine terminals to handle increased import and export volumes.
Until now, vessels the size of the Benjamin Franklin have been deployed exclusively in the Asia-Europe trade, which is the world’s busiest container shipping route.