The largest containership ever to visit North America arrived at the port of Los Angeles early Saturday morning, marking the U.S. debut of a new breed of ‘mega ships’ that have until now only been seen in Asia and Europe.
The 398-meter, 18,000 TEU capacity MV CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin arrived just after 4 a.m. at APM Terminals’ Pier 400 at the port of Los Angeles after sailing from China.
The ship is one of a new type of Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) being built at shipyards in Asia by some of the largest carriers to increase capacity and efficiency on the world’s busiest shipping routes. The vessels measure up to 400 meters long (1,312 ft.) and are designed to carry more than 18,000, and in some cases even 19,000 twenty-foot equivalent containers, but until now they have been deployed exclusively on Asia to N. Europe trade routes.
The Benjamin Franklin is owned by France’s CMA CGM Group, who says the ship will operate on its Pearl River Express, a regular service connecting some of China’s main ports, including Xiamen, Nansha and Yantian, with Los Angeles and Oakland. The vessel will call at the port of Oakland next on December 31st before heading back across the Pacific to China.
While some have said the arrival of the Benjamin Franklin marks a ‘new era’ of mega-ships calling at U.S. ports, others view the arrival as mostly symbolic, meant as a trial run to test West Coast port infrastructure before more ULCVs can follow suit.