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Seattle’s Big Visitor

by Norris Comer

The Port of Seattle recently had a very large visitor. The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, an Explorer Class Containership, is the largest ship ever to dock in the USA and left for the Europe/Asia trade routes after a stay in the Sound. The 1,310-foot cargo container ship can carry up to 18,000 shipping containers and can weigh up to 200,000 tons. She was delivered in November, 2015 and her beam of 177 ft. makes her too wide to pass through the Panama Canal even after the canal’s expansion.

CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin - photo by Alex Kwanten

The Benjamin Franklin steams out of the Port of Seattle with a Puget Sound Ferry for size comparison. Photo by Alex Kwanten.

But those are just numbers, what do they actually mean? Well, the Space Needle weighs 9,550 tons and is about 600 feet tall (with antenna). That means the Benjamin Franklin is over two Space Needles long and can weigh as much as 20 Space Needles. Let that sink in for a moment and try to imagine a stack of 20 Space Needles floating into the Port of Seattle.

Our region would obviously love to attract more big ships like the Benjamin Franklin for the sake of business and prestige, but considerable investment in infrastructure would be required. By considerable, the Seaport Alliance estimates $800 million and it’s not likely we’ll see other ships of Benjamin Franklin’s caliber anytime soon. But, as global trade grows, will ships the size of Benjamin Franklin become the norm or even on the small side? 5,000 containers was a big ship not too long ago. For now, the stacks of floating Space Needles grow in our imaginations.

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