Mega Ship Benjamin Franklin Officially Welcomed to Long Beach: An Inside Look

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All photos by Adrian Liwanag.

Long Beach officially welcomed the largest ship ever to call the United States during an inauguration at the city’s port Friday afternoon.

The Chinese-made, French-owned vessel has the fleet capacity of 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), or 9,000 40-foot boxes and is as long as the Empire State Building is tall (about 1,300 feet long). It’s also as wide as a 12-lane freeway (177 feet wide…no big deal). The vessel is 197 feet high, which is the same height as a 20-floor building.

CMA CGM officials said they named the ship Benjamin Franklin because it symbolizes the partnership between France and the United States and noted that the Founding Father was the first U.S. ambassador to France.

“It’s not just about the economy, it not only represents global trade, it not only represents the future, but it also represents an important relationship I think between our countries,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said during the ceremony.

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Though a bit of dredging was needed at the port’s terminal to allow Franklin to dock, and the ship was not at full capacity—loaded with about eight TEUs of containers, though having a capacity of 10 TEUs—the French executives felt the port’s current work toward building up-to-date infrastructure, such as raising a bridge, marked its readiness for such big vessels.

“Today, the ports in the United States are not quite ready to handle those vessels every week after week, but they are coming to that,” CMA CGM America President Marc Bourdon said. “In Los Angeles and in Long Beach a number of terminals have started investing heavily in their cranes, which are certainly one of the biggest constraints that we have today for reaching the higher TEUs of the vessel.”

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The ship not only boasts a large carrying capacity but it’s also technologically and sustainability efficient. The 78-foot long engine room—housing 120,000 horsepower and 11 cylinder engine—uses a mix of diesel and bunker fuel.

“If there was ever any doubt that we are big ship ready, if there was ever any doubt that in the United States we could not accept an 18,000 TEU vessel container, this ship put that debate, that discussion to rest,” said Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Lori Ann Guzmán. “We have sealed the deal. It is here. It is extraordinary and magnificent and i just couldnt be more excited today.”

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The ship, which is run by a 26-member crew, also has its own waste recycle system, chef, and swimming pool. Be weary of the steps for the nine flights of stairs, which are maybe about half a foot long, making it easy for any distracted person to lose their footing.

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At $150 a night, any layperson can even board the ship—so long as they are heading in the same direction. Officials said there are five rooms available for regular passengers who wish a cheaper alternative to cruise ships or are the artsy type looking for inspiration.

After unloading the containers, which is filled with products heading mostly to Walmarts throughout the country, company officials said the ship’s next call will be Seattle.

“By bringing the largest container vessel ever to the U.S. shores we are confirming our willingness to strengthen our presence in the United States,” said company founder and CEO Jacques Saade. “We have the vessels, you have the cargo—let’s work together!”

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Mega Ship Benjamin Franklin Officially Welcomed to Long Beach:…

Long Beach officially welcomed the largest ship ever to call the United States during an inauguration at the Port of Long Beach Friday afternoon.Read more:

Posted by Long Beach Post on Friday, February 19, 2016


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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.