A Cargo Ship the Size of the Empire State Building Has Arrived in the U.S.

As of 2011, the world’s cargo carrying fleet consists of more than 55,000 ships, but there are few quite like the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin. The gigantic ship is longer than the Empire State Building is tall, dwarfs the U.S. Navy’s largest aircraft carrier, and can carry the volume of 235 Olympic swimming pools.

And for the first time, the big ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles, where it became the largest container ship to ever reach the United States.

The ship landed in Los Angeles last month as part of a multi-stage trip along the west coast. Embarking from China, the Benjamin Franklin found its way to Oakland on December 31st, ringing in the new year at a city that spent $400 million upgrading facilities and dredging the water to ensure that the staggeringly large ship could fit into the harbor.

That might sound like a lot to spend to prepare for just one ship’s arrival, but the Benjamin Franklin isn’t just one ship. Its deck is 1,300 feet from prow to stern. That’s longer than three football fields. It can also lug 18,000 containers across the ocean using an engine that puts out as much thrust as 11 Boeing 747-400 engines.

According to Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, French shipping company CMA CGM chose the City of Angels for the Benjamin Franklin’s first stop to show that the port was “among the world’s greatest.”

It was only one year ago that labor disputes brought seaborne trade on the West Coast of the U.S. to a standstill. Now, ports all along the coast have successfully processed the largest cargo vessel the U.S. has ever seen, proving that the nation’s west coast ports are back.

Though there might not be many ships as big as the Benjamin Franklin, CMA CGM is hoping to send more megaships to the west coast as it expands its trade in the Pacific.
“In the next two years,” U.S. pilot George Livingstone told SF Gate, “50 of these ships will be launched. We need to be ready.”

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