FIRST REPORT, 11:45 AM: It’s the most gawkable thing in our area today – the first-ever visit of the biggest cargo ship to call on North American ports, the CGA CGM Benjamin Franklin, whose arrival was watched at spots from sea level to skyscraper:
It’s at Terminal 18 on Harbor Island, and it just received a VIP welcome across the East Waterway at Terminal 25, fireboat and all.
The event was a chance for the port to show off, in an intensely competitive time up and down the West Coast, as well as the rest of the world. (updated) Here’s our video of the welcoming speeches:
If you don’t have time to watch – some highlights:
Port Commissioner Stephanie Bowman emceed. She described herself as an unabashed champion of the working waterfront. “We want to see our working waterfront filled more with working cranes than ferris wheels,” says Bowman.
Next: Mayor Ed Murray, who used the word “incredible” to refer to the ship and our local economy. He echoed Bowman in saying it represents our future as well as our past. And he gave a shoutout to the Lander Street Overpass, vital not only for port traffic but as a surface link between West Seattle and SODO/Downtown.
Northwest Seaport Alliance (the Seattle/Tacoma joint venture) CEO John Wolfe told the crowd he rode in on the Benjamin Franklin.
“What an incredible sight to come into the harbor and see the sunrise over the Seattle skyline.” He says this is the result of the industry “work(ing) together.” He says that in his days as a terminal operator, a ship with a third the capacity of this one – 6,600 containers, compared to 18,000 – was considered big. He touts nearly a billion dollars in investment ahead for the port (that would include the Terminal 5 modernization planned for northeastern West Seattle).
Ed McCarthy, senior VP of the ship’s owner CMA CGM, said it took months of work to get ready for this. He hailed the other modes of transportation it takes “to handle vessels of this size” – including rail and trucks. “There is still some work to be done” here in Seattle, he notes. “This is really a trial right now – the reason we brought the vessel in is that (company leadership) wanted to bring the ship into ports all over the West Coast … There’s a lot of learning we’re gathering from bringing the vessel in, and we’re looking forward to sharing that information with stakeholders as we complete the study.”
Carrix, the parent company of SSA Marine – operator of Terminals 18 and 30 – also was represented, by CEO Knud Stubkjaer.
He said, “This is a moment we’ve been looking forward to, and we’ve been ready for a while.” He talked about the expansion work that has already been done at terminals including the one at which the event was being held, “to create what is a unique and competitive infrastructure for … our customers. … The future has arrived here today.” He also talked about the competition among West Coast ports, and the investment that others were making to fight for the business from megaships like the Benjamin Franklin.
Puget Sound Pilots‘ Capt. David Grobschmidt noted that his day started very early, as he and a team of pilots brought the Benjamin Franklin “successfully into Seattle,” starting alongside Port Angeles around 3 am. “We would really like to see this called her home port,” he concluded.
And president Rich Austin of ILWU Local 19 wrapped up, saying that on behalf of his union, they welcome the ship.
“There are many components to a successful port, and labor is as important as any of those components.” He noted that the ship represented “the future of the industry” and that a “new approach” identifies labor as “instrumental” in making this port “a shipper’s best option.”
Others here include not only port officials but also city and state elected officials. (added) Here’s the official port news release, including an infographic about the ship’s size and capacity.
3:01 PM UPDATE: We’ve added our video, above, of the entire 26 minutes of welcoming speeches. The ship is scheduled to be here until about 8 am Tuesday.
ADDED MONDAY NIGHT: One more visual – just found this time-lapse, from-the-bridge video published to YouTube by another of the Puget Sound Pilots who brought the BF in, Capt. Ed Marmol: