Record-breaking giant of the seas Marco Polo sails in

Record-breaking Marco Polo is as long as four soccer pitches and could power a small town

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 4:45am

Maritime history was made yesterday when the world's largest container ship docked in Hong Kong on its maiden call after being deployed to serve the Asia-Europe trade route.

At 396 metres long, the CMA CGM Marco Polo, which can carry up to 16,020 20-foot containers, is as long as four soccer fields. If stood on end it would be considerably taller than the Eiffel Tower's 320 metres.

The massive ship, which produces enough electrical power for a town of 16,000 people, can speed along at 21 knots, equivalent to 39 kilometres an hour.

The vessel was delivered by South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering to French shipping company CMA CGM earlier this month.

The ship flies Britain's Red Ensign because the French container line registered it in London.

It spent just a few hours loading cargo at Hongkong International Terminals' container terminal seven, before continuing on to Chiwan, west Shenzhen.

It will move on to the port of Yantian, in east Shenzhen, tomorrow.

The maiden revenue-earning voyage, which started in Ningbo last Wednesday, is due to end on December 19 when it docks at Le Havre, France, before beginning its return voyage to Asia. A round-trip, Ningbo-to-Ningbo voyage takes 78 days.

The Marco Polo is the first of three sister vessels that CMA CGM, Europe's No 3 container company, has ordered from Daewoo Shipbuilding. The other ships will also be named after great explorers when they are delivered next year.

CMA CGM has already entered the ship in the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department's scheme that offers shipping lines a discount on port charges if their ships burn low-sulphur diesel while berthed in the city.

The Marco Polo is part of a trend by shipping lines to launch larger-capacity container ships in an effort to reduce fuel and other costs while increasing operating efficiencies.

Orient Overseas Container Line, the Tung-family-controlled shipping line, will take delivery of its first 13,000 20-foot equivalent unit (teu) container ship next year.

Marco Polo has nudged the 15,500 teu Emma Maersk, which was built in 2006, out of the record books, but it in turn will be displaced when the first of twenty 18,000 teu container ships is delivered to Denmark's Maersk Line next year.

Eric Ip, group deputy managing director at Hutchison Port Holdings, said this week that Hong Kong's five terminal operators would have to undergo some consolidation if the port was to successfully handle the larger vessels. The ultra-large container ships are longer than the single berth at container terminal three in Kwai Chung.