(From October, 2010)
We at USIA Marine, being boat builders ourselves, usually love stories about new technology and the latest innovations in watercraft manufacturing. However, this story, though fascinating, fills us with, well, conflicted feelings.
Meet the Emma Maersk, the world’s largest container ship. For a boater, the specs are mind-boggling, the numbers stunning. It has a length of 1,302 feet, that’s longer than an aircraft carrier. But while a carrier has a crew of over 5,000, this behemoth only needs a crew of 13. It has a width of 207 feet, which is too wide for the Panama Canal, making it strictly a trans-Pacific liner. It can carry an amazing 15,000 cargo containers. We’re talking those big metal containers that are the size of a train car-15 thousand of them!
The giant ship was built in 5 sections, then the pieces were floated in the water and welded together. At a whopping cruising speed of 31 knots (typical ships usually go 18-20 knots) the Emma Maersk can cross the Pacific 4 days quicker than other her smaller counterparts.
We have to admire the sheer scale of the engineering and also we have to appreciate the difficulty in the logistics of pulling off such a feat of manufacturing. And though it is not the largest ship ever built (the Nock Nevis held that distinction) its ability to transport more cargo quicker is great news. It saves fuel, time and energy, all pluses.
But there’s a big minus, as big as the Emma Maersk herself. This is what she looks like on the return voyage:
Sitting high out of the water-empty. Things coming into the US, but nothing being shipped back out overseas. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. There is something inside being shipped overseas: American jobs. See, this ship, and seven others like it, was commissioned by Wal-Mart to transport its goods, over 90% of which are from China, in a one way only trip to California. Now, we have nothing against international trade, but when all that merchandise is coming in and nothing is going out, that tells you volumes about the US economy.