A container ship longer and wider than a Navy aircraft carrier called at the Port of Tacoma’s Washington United Terminal Wednesday setting a new record for vessel size at the port.
The Zim Djibouti has a capacity of 10,000 container units, about 40 percent larger than the typical container vessel that calls on port terminals.
Before the Wednesday morning trip by the Zim Djibouti up the Blair Waterway, the largest container ship to call at the port had a capacity of 8,500 container units, said Tara Mattina, the port’s communications director.
The container vessel is 1,145 feet long and 151 feet wide. The USS Nimitz, is 1,090 feet long and 134 feet wide at the waterline although at the flight deck the Nimitz is 252 feet wide. The aircraft carrier is stationed at Naval Station Everett.
“Its length stretches more than twice the diameter of the Tacoma Dome and almost twice the height of the Space Needle,” the port noted in a press release.
Israel-based Zim is part of the Grand Alliance container ship consortium that moved to the Port of Tacoma from the Port of Seattle a year ago. Zim and the other three container lines, Hapag-Lloyd, NYK and OOCL, share ships and capacity in the trans-Pacific trade.
The Zim Djibouti begins its route in Singapore and then calls on Shenzhen in China, in Hong Kong, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, Vancouver, B.C., Tacoma, and then back across the Pacific to Pusan in Korea before retracing its route.
The ship apparently will become a regular caller at the Port of Tacoma. The ship is scheduled to leave Tacoma Friday and then return August 23.
While the vessel is the largest that’s ever called here, its only a medium large vessel compared with some of the newer ships now coming on line.
Maersk Line, for instance, is scheduling the maiden voyage of the first of its “Triple E” containerships from Asia to Europe beginning Tuesday. That vessel, the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, carries 18,000 container units. The Triple E ships are 1,312 feet long and 194 feet wide. For a short time, the Mc-Kinney Moller and its sister ships that are still being built will be the world’s largest ships.
Hyundai Merchant Marine in May announced it has ordered five container vessels larger than the Maersk Triple E class vessels from a Korea shipyard. Those ships will have a capacity of 400 more container units than the Maersk ships.
None of the ultra-large container ships will be calling on the U.S. in the near future. Rather those ships are destined to operate in the Asia-Europe trade. The largest container container ship to call on the U.S. is the MSC Beatrice which calls on Long Beach in California.
That ship is 1,200 feet long and 167 feet wide.
While the Port of Tacoma is unlikely to see the world’s largest ships at its terminals, the Zim Djibouti’s arrival is a sign that the port will likely see ships grow much larger in the coming years.
The port is embarking on several projects to accommodate those larger vessels including straightening a pier on the Blair Waterway, preparing for new container cranes with wider reaches to unload the larger vessels and eventually widening the Blair Waterway to allow larger ships to safely navigate that waterway.
“Ships continue to get larger, and we are ready for them,” said John Wolfe, Port of Tacoma chief executive officer. “We are fortunate to have naturally deep water, and we are investing in our terminals and road and rail infrastructure to handle more cargo and the associated super-post-Panamax ships and cranes.”
With a vessel the size of the Zim Djibouti, two Puget Sound pilots man the bridge and at least three tugs typically assist the vessel to and from its berth.
Three tugs escorted the Djibouti Wednesday morning. The vessel, which had arrived in Commencement Bay Tuesday night and anchored overnight, began its journey toward its berth about 6:30 a.m. The ship tied up at the south end of the Washington United Terminal about 7:30 a.m.