Mammoth container ship to make Oakland stop

Port of Oakland officials this week¬†said they are preparing for the arrival of the largest container ship to ever visit the United States in a trial run of the port’s ability to handle a new generation of megaships.

The 1,300-foot Benjamin Franklin, the 10th largest containership in the world, was launched from a Chinese shipyard last month and will arrive in Oakland for a one-day stop as part of its maiden voyage on the morning of New Year’s Eve, port officials said.

The ship, operated by Marseille-based shipping line CMA CGM, is expected to operate a regularly scheduled run between California, China and South Korea, officials said.

Part of a new generation of megaships, or ultra large container carriers, the Franklin can hold up to 18,000 20-foot shipping containers. By comparison, the largest ships currently visiting U.S. ports carry 14,000 containers.

Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle said in a statement:

“Nothing this big has ever been seen in our country. …¬†There’s no doubt others will follow suit and we’re gratified that Oakland is one of the only ports in the U.S. ready to receive them.”

Oakland, one of only a handful of U.S. ports that can receive megaships, has invested millions in changes including dredging berths and channels to depths of 50 feet, raising the heights of cranes and modernizing marine terminals, officials said.

On Nov. 30 port officials announced they would be raising the height of four gantry cranes at the Oakland International Container Terminal by 26 feet to accommodate megaships. The $13.95 million project is scheduled to begin in April, officials said.