Massive Cargo Ship to Arrive at Port of Oakland

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The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, a megaboat that is longer than the Empire State Building, arrived at the Port of Los Angeles over the weekend, making it the biggest ship to ever touch USA shores.

Most such ships coming into US ports carry 14,000 containers.

A great behemoth entered the Bay Thursday morning as a almost quarter-mile long megaship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge with only 20 feet of clearance to spare.

"The arrival of fewer vessels, but with larger numbers of containers, is creating intense peak-time pressure on the ports", the South African shipping blog Portcullis said earlier this year. The trip by the Benjamin Franklin was arranged by an alliance that included United Arab Shipping Co. of Dubai and China Shipping Container Lines of Shanghai, part of an industry trend toward vessel-sharing agreements to ensure that the large ships are full.

The CMA CGM Group is a French-based shipping company that operates in 160 countries and posted revenues of $16.9 billion in 2014. "This vessel also represents and reinforces the economic partnership between the USA and France". Ships like this are actually common on routes between Asia and Europe. 

The Oakland port's position seems secure for now, because numerous megaships being built are too big to pass through even the widened Panama Canal now under construction, according to many maritime sources, including a February article in The Bulletin Panama. This was their chance to prove to the shipping lines that they can handle the new generation of bigger ships. Four tugs helped the ship into the dock. They're the most cost-effective, fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vessels afloat, said the port.

Livingstone said piloting ships like this is "a public trust".

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said the port had an unusual amount of detail about the ship's cargo - how it was stowed, where it was going - nearly two weeks before it arrived.

Port workers, not usually tasked with handling a ship of the Benjamin Franklin's proportions, have been preparing for its arrival for weeks on a simulator at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, said Capt. Peter McIsaac, president of the San Francisco Bar Pilots.

"We have to be flawless", he said.

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