The French ocean carrier says the 18,000-TEU ship Benjamin Franklin is the “future of container shipping,” but it has no immediate plans for deploying such large containerships in the transpacific trade.
France’s CMA CGM said a port call by its 18,000-TEU containership CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin to the Port of Los Angeles over the weekend provides a glimpse of the “future of container shipping,” but that it has no immediate plans to have ships so large regularly serve the transpacific trade.
Marc Bourdon, president of CMA CGM America, said during a dockside press conference that the ship, which is roughly as large as the Empire State Building, represents “a future that resides in ultra-large vessels.”
The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, the largest vessel to ever call a United States port, “is about a third larger than the biggest containerships that currently call at the San Pedro Bay port complex,” according to the Port of Los Angeles.
“Productivity was high and rail connectivity has been efficient,” CMA CGM said of the operation. A total of 11,200 containers of all sizes were discharged and loaded at APM Terminal’s Pier 400 facility.
The ship is now en route to Oakland where it is scheduled to arrive Thursday morning. The Port of Oakland said that it is expected that there approximately 1520
containers will be discharged and approximately 1030 containers will be loaded.
A decision on when to deploy such large ships in the transpacific “will be reviewed based on the outcome of the trials and the readiness of terminals,” a CMA CGM spokeswoman told American Shipper in a written statement. There is no plan to deploy such a large ship “at this point,” she said.
“An assessment of test results, infrastructure improvements in 2016 and market conditions will determine the optimum size and timing.”
“We wished to conduct test calls in the US to allow all stakeholders involved to get a better understanding of what handling a vessel this size requires,” the spokeswoman added. :This will ensure that steps can be taken ahead of receiving such ships on a permanent basis when terminals have upgraded their facilities in the course of next year.
“It also allows us to determine what is feasible in working out future deployments,” she said.
CMA CGM said the Benjamin Franklin will return to the Port of Long Beach, and possibly Oakland for a second time, in the first quarter of 2016. The ship will then go into its planned rotation in the Asia-Europe trade.
“This call is a test call and as such, is managed with equipment available at the terminals today,” the ocean carrier said. “They are not yet up to the requirement for such a vessel thereby limiting the vessel intake below its maximum capacity. As ports are getting ready with new cranes throughout 2016, we believe that these tests will provide valuable information to establish the road map for deploying large ships on a permanent basis in the future.”
“Unprecedented measures were deployed to handle the berthing of the largest cargo vessel ever to call at a U.S. port, with 9 cranes and 56 hours of operations,” it added.
CMA CGM said “more than 4,500 containers were to be carried by train to their final destination. For several weeks, rail cars have been pre-staged to the Port of Los Angeles to ensure fastest turnarounds. Truckers were also notified of this highest level of activity.”
“Receiving an 18,000-TEU capacity vessel for the first time requires long and meticulous preparation to guarantee a flawless call and fluid operations in as little time as possible,” the company noted.
In sharp contrast to last year, when port operations slowed and evening shifts discontinued during the fractious contract talks between International Longshore and Warehouse Union and its employers, there was a celebratory tone during a ceremony that welcomed the ships.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka singled out the ILWU for their support, saying that when he learned the ship was coming it only took “four simple phone calls” to union leaders to secure their cooperation.
“Earlier this year APM Terminals, longshore, and land-side logistics partners efficiently processed three 13,000-TEU ships concurrently producing more than 38,000 container moves over an 8-day period,” he noted.
The Port of Los Angeles posted a promotional video of the vessel’s “test” U.S. arrival on YouTube.
“The arrival of the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin signals a new chapter in Pacific Rim trade flow and supply chain optimization,” said Seroka.