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Largest container ship to ever visit US departs Oakland
The 18,000 teu vessel will call at Long Beach in February Credit: Port of Oakland

Largest container ship to ever visit US departs Oakland

The Port of Oakland has become the second US port to handle the largest container ship to visit the USA, following the Port of Los Angeles, where the 18,000 teu CMA CGM vessel arrived at in late December 2015.

The ultra-large container vessel (ULCV) berthed in the port of Oakland on December 31, 2015, and will return to the US in February after visiting Chinese ports.

On December 26, 2015, unprecedented measures were deployed to handle the ship in Los Angeles. These comprised 56 hours of operations, approximately 11,200 container moves and as many as nine cranes – the largest number of cranes deployed simultaneously on the same vessel at the Port of Los Angeles.

Jacques Saadé, founder, chairman and CEO of CMA CGM Group, said: “This unprecedented call shows CMA CGM’s strong faith in long-term growth potential of the U.S. economy and our commitment to increasing our U.S. market share.”

Last month, maritime consultant Drewry voiced scepticism over US West Coast ports’ ability to handle mega-ships, noting that productivity would have to improve significantly for ULCVs to call on “anything other than an ad-hoc basis”.

In preparation for the ship’s arrival in Oakland, the French shipping line worked with the Port of Oakland and NWS Seaport Alliance, the San Francisco Bar Pilots, Ports America Outer Harbour, railroads and trucking companies.

As a part of this, CMA CGM, the Port of Oakland and the San Francisco Bar Pilots (SFBP) executed vessel simulations at the California Maritime Academy: seven San Francisco Harbour pilots ran two different simulations in presence of a CMA CGM Senior Captain – one to handle mooring with such a vessel, the second one was focused on sailing.

Similarly ahead of the call in Los Angeles, the carrier collaborated with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and city officials, the Port of Los Angeles, harbour pilots, APM Terminals, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), railroads and trucking companies.

During the Los Angeles call, more than 4,500 containers were to be carried by train to their final destination, with rail cars pre-staged to the port for several weeks to reduce turnaround times.