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Big Cargo Ship in Seattle Signals Big Stakes as Nation's Ports Compete

The Northwest Seaport Alliance

The largest cargo ship to visit the United States, the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, arrived in Seattle on Feb. 29 morning to greetings from Mayor Ed Murray and other dignitaries, and a flurry of media coverage.

Longer than the Empire State Building, wider than a football field and as tall as a 20-floor building, the gigantic ship loomed at The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Terminal 18 as Murray proclaimed Seattle’s past, present and future as a center of the maritime industry.

But beneath the pomp and publicity, the big ship’s arrival underscores the fierce competition the Puget Sound ports are facing as they seek to attract these ever-larger ships. Global container traffic is flat, shipping companies are seeking to make fewer ports of call and competition is strengthening everywhere — from ports in Canada to those on the East Coast awaiting the widening of the Panama Canal.

The visit by the Benjamin Franklin is intended to show that The Northwest Seaport Alliance — the marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma — can handle such big ships, which are seen as the future of the industry.

At 1,300 feet long, 177 feet wide and 197 feet tall, the Benjamin Franklin has a capacity of 18,000 TEUs (or 20-foot equivalent units — the standard unit of measurement for cargo capacity).

Typical-size container vessels run in the range of 8,000 to10,000 TEUs — itself a rapid change from 10 years ago, when 6,000 TEUs was the average, said Peter McGraw, a spokesman for The Northwest Seaport Alliance.

“It’ll probably be several years before we see something that big again,” McGraw said of the Benjamin Franklin. “But we’ll be seeing larger vessels in the 13,000 to 14,000 size before that.”

The Benjamin Franklin, owned by French container shipping company CMA CGM, is visiting Seattle, after California stops in Long Beach and Oakland. It’s part of a test call to see how quickly cranes at the ports can load and unload, how quickly containers can be moved to and from the port and how quickly the items can be delivered to their final destinations.

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By Janet I. Tu
The Seattle Times


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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