Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The World’s Largest Container Ship

The world’s largest container ship, the CMA CGM Marco Polo, is on a Trans-Pacific visit to Europe. Aboard the ship are 4,000 containers carrying goods destined for businesses and shops in time for Christmas. The ship is actually severely under-loaded. At its full capacity the CMA CGM Marco Polo could carry a staggering 16,000 containers, but the ship would have been unable to navigate the waters of the Elbe River between the North Sea and Europe's second largest port in Hamburg, which are too shallow for the latest generation of super container ships.

At 396 meters long and 54 meters wide, the Marco Polo is larger than a US Navy aircraft carrier and longer than four football pitches. It became the largest containership in the world measured by capacity just last month, on 6 November 2012, beating the previous best of 11,000 containers that the Emma Mærsk and her seven sisters of the Mærsk E-class are capable of carrying.

Since 1952, every vessel as it approaches on the River Elba from the estuary has been ceremoniously saluted, with the Hamburg flag being lowered and the international flag hoisted to signify “Bon voyage”. The salute is then repeated for those leaving Hamburg. Sometimes ships enter into the spirit by dipping their flag or sounding their fog horn.

The biggest vessels are treated to an even more solemn ritual on their arrival into and departure from German territorial waters: in addition to the flag ceremony the national anthem of the country under which the vessel is registered is played. This was one such big occasion. Many shipping enthusiasts and spectators braved the cold weather and lined the shores to watch the giant container ship dock on December 12.

New container ships such as the CMA CGM Marco Polo are not only impressive for their sheer size, but also for their sophisticated environmentally friendly technology. The CMA CGM Marco Polo has a twisted leading edge rudder which improves the hydrodynamics of the vessel and so reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Its electronically controlled engine consumes an average of 3 percent less fuel and 25 percent less lub oil. Its fuel tanks are protected by double hull to prevent oil leakage in the event of a disaster. The hull is optimised to reduce energy consumption even further. It also features an all-new, chemical-free ballast water treatment system that protects marine ecosystems by limiting the transfer of micro-organisms from ocean to ocean.

CMA CGM Marco Polo won't be the biggest container ship in the world for long. The Maersk Triple E class, currently under construction and slated for launch next summer, can carry 18,000 containers at once.

The Marco Polo makes its first visit to the UK on 10th December 2012. Photographed at Southampton.

The Marco Polo at Hamburg on December 12, 2012

The Marco Polo departing Southampton on December 10, 2012.

The Marco Polo departing Southampton on December 10, 2012.

The Marco Polo at Hamburg on December 12, 2012.

The Marco Polo at London on December 10, 2012.

The Marco Polo at London on December 10, 2012.


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