CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin Arrives in Seattle

Benjamin Franklin

By MarEx 2016-02-29 21:22:28

The largest cargo ship to visit the United States, the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, arrived at The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Terminal 18 in Seattle on Monday.

The Benjamin Franklin has capacity for 18,000 TEUs - more than double the cargo of most container ships calling at Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) terminals. If laid end-to-end, the 18,000 TEUs would stretch from Tacoma to Everett, a distance of about 68 miles.

At 1,310 feet long and 177 feet wide, the Benjamin Franklin is longer than two Space Needles or five Boeing 747s placed along its length.

Trans-Pacific Trade

Mega-ships like the Benjamin Franklin are entering the trans-Pacific trade sooner than expected, as shipping lines seek increased economies of scale to reduce operating costs and environmental impact. 

The newbuild was delivered on December 4 by China State Shipbuilding Corporation and has already called at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Oakland.

In addition to being the largest of her class ever to call at an American port, the ultra large container vessel (ULCV) Benjamin Franklin is the tenth largest in the world. Her planned regular run will take her from China to California and South Korea.

There are few ports in the U.S. capable of handling such large container ships. The majority lack either water depth for berthing or air draft for arrival and departure. Even though the Panama Canal is expanding, with new locks scheduled to open this year, it will still not be large enough to accommodate ULCVs. This means that the largest, most cost-effective container ships need West Coast ports for routes from Asia to America (barring the construction of the proposed Nicaragua Canal or the opening of a Northwest Passage above Canada).

NWSA Upsizing

Last fall, the NWSA welcomed two 11,400-TEU vessels, the CMA CGM Callisto and CMA CGM Cassiopea, and 10,000-TEU ships call regularly in the North and South harbors.

“The entire cargo industry is upsizing to big ships. To keep the Puget Sound gateway competitive, we must invest in our terminal facilities and road and rail networks to efficiently handle these larger vessels and additional cargo,” said John Creighton, president of the Port of Seattle Commission. 

The larger vessels require terminals with deeper berths, stronger piers and bigger container cranes. The NWSA’s 10-year strategic plan identifies key investments in facilities to meet customer needs and grow jobs, including planned upgrades in the North Harbor’s Terminal 5 and South Harbor’s Terminal 4.

These complement investments already made by SSA Marine and the NWSA to make Terminal 18 big-ship ready now. Additionally, the Seattle home port and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are halfway through a deepening feasibility study to evaluate alternatives for deepening the navigation channels in the East & West Waterways up to 55 feet.

Good for Business

“A vibrant, growing maritime sector is good for Washington state, where 40 percent of jobs are tied to international trade,” said Connie Bacon, president of the Port of Tacoma Commission. “We are committed to doing our part to create more jobs and economic opportunities for the region, and supporting a great quality of life for the Puget Sound region.”

According to a 2013 study, NWSA marine cargo operations support 48,000 jobs in the Puget Sound and generate nearly $4.3 billion in economic activity. If the farmers and manufacturers who ship products through the two harbors are factored in, NWSA's activities reach 443,000 jobs across the state.

“I’m proud to welcome the Benjamin Franklin to Washington state, because it shows the world that we are big-ship ready and open for business supporting the efficient, clean and prosperous shipping trends of the future," said Gov. Jay Inslee.