VIDEO: ‘The future has arrived here today.’ Welcoming ceremony as CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin stops for Seattle ‘trial’

(Photo by David Hutchinson, taken from Jack Perry Park)

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:

(Photo courtesy Deb)

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.

IMG_2035 (2)

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:

32 Replies to "VIDEO: 'The future has arrived here today.' Welcoming ceremony as CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin stops for Seattle 'trial'"

  • Skeptic February 29, 2016 (2:29 pm)

    Many businesses lost a lot of money during the ILWU strike last year and will not forget that their livelihood can be held hostage by these union takeover tactics.  Modernizing Terminal 5 to try and compete with Long Beach for traffic from these larger vessels will be an expensive mistake. 

    • Dale February 29, 2016 (4:19 pm)

      I don’t see the big need either. Shipping is down and has been for the last 18 months. China is unraveling and imports and exports are not keeping up with growth projections. There is a glut of shipping capacity. To expand for a few larger ships makes no economic sense. As you can see, the ship leaves tomorrow at 8:00 am–I suspect a smaller ship could have handled the need just as well. 

    • Realist February 29, 2016 (4:35 pm)

      First, I suggest you do a simple Google search and learn the definition of a strike.  The ILWU hasn’t gone on strike in 44 years! The terminal operators and shipping lines deliberately cut back on work orders to load and unload vessels in order to force their bargaining demands on the ILWU. They were trying to diminish longshoremen’s ability to earn a living so that the union would give in. There was not strike by longshoremen and the disruption of work in the port was a direct result of action taken by the companies.

      Second, many businesses did not lose a lot of money, importers and exporters had a temporary disruption. If businesses weren’t so reliant on foreign imports and more products were made in the USA, there wouldn’t be so much reliance on the ports. Businesses love to exploit cheap overseas labor, and sell Americans throwaway products. I’m sure they’d also enjoy paying our dockworkers slave wages, and idiots like you think that is a good thing.  Sure! Let’s continue the middle class race to the bottom and fight over the scraps while the rich get richer!!!

      People like you are part of the problem. Destroying the legacy created by the “Greatest Generation”.


      • Mark47n February 29, 2016 (5:37 pm)

        You took the words right out of my mouth!

      • AY February 29, 2016 (11:08 pm)


  • Jason February 29, 2016 (2:52 pm)

    Sorry if I missed this tidbit somewhere in the article or news release, but how long will the ship be there? 

    • WSB February 29, 2016 (2:59 pm)

      Sorry, I think I filed over that part, re-adding. 8 am Tuesday.

  • Plane nut February 29, 2016 (5:50 pm)

    When Boeing introduced the 747 in 1968 people said, too big, waste on money, never use it, airports can’t handle it, and a lot more.

  • JeffK February 29, 2016 (6:45 pm)

    Nice use of CMA CGM containers stacked on the outer flanks on this cruise.  I bet they are empty and just there for the pictures this time around.

    • WSB February 29, 2016 (6:49 pm)

      There is *some* cargo being unloaded while it’s here. I noticed something else this morning that looked like a photo-op, another CMA CGM ship anchored in the bay while this one came in, as if it were waiting for a family photo … a Port staffer told me it just happened to be leaving this morning. – TR

  • flynlo February 29, 2016 (7:49 pm)

    Interesting how they can “anchor in the bay” and leave in the morning and yet they can never “anchor in the bay” to wait for a low level bridge to open!!!

    • AMD February 29, 2016 (11:03 pm)

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but the bay is deeper than the Duwamish, no?  Some vessels can only travel at high tide due to water depth, which is why the bridge sometimes goes up at inconvenient times.  The vessels actually can’t just wait.

  • Wary Westsider February 29, 2016 (9:45 pm)

    Beautiful ship.  However, with four massive diesel generators that emit a rattling hum, it has the potential disturb our West Seattle homes and cause restless nights for hundreds of people once it’s docked at T5 in a few years..  Let’s get shore power (cold ironing) to reduce CO2 emissions and low frequency vibrations.   

  • AY February 29, 2016 (11:12 pm)

    Just viewed two great videos from Port of Oakland and Port of Los Angeles welcoming this majestic vessel into their ports. Disappointed that Port of Seattle does not offer anything but a few people speaking into a microphone. 

    • WSB March 1, 2016 (12:18 am)

      Just to be clear, the “few people speaking at microphone” video is ours. I don’t know what the Port has or hasn’t produced, although your comment did send me looking around and I found a point-of-view time-lapse video recorded by one of the pilots, so I’m adding that! – TR

  • AlkiRich March 1, 2016 (12:25 am)

    It would be invaluable for Seattle to make improvements to be able to handle ships this size, if it can’t already. Business cycles are a given. The trend right now may be down but inevitably it will reverse and move up. We must be ready to be the port of choice for ships like this whenever that happens, now or later. BUT, it is imperative that the resulting truck traffic NOT have to cross the formidable barrier posed by the Duwamish River Ways, i.e. it must not dock on Harbor Island or West Seattle, forcing huge additional pressure on the already near or at capacity High and Low WS Bridges. That would be a huge mistake. Only options east of the rivers should be considered. That too will require some less painful but still serious rethinking of transportation strategies including eliminating  artificial lane restrictions, and even adding new lanes and ramps.  Minds involved in these critical decisions must be unencumbered by social engineering considerations and political correctness, which disqualifies everyone at the SDOT or WDOT.  This is not lightly stated but based on an over 20 year dismal track record.  A totally separate commission is absolutely paramount to obtaining an optimum outcome for everyone.

  • AlkiRich March 1, 2016 (12:40 am)

    Just out of curiosity, why would this vessel stop at both Long Beach, CA and Seattle? A Google of CMA CGM said it was inaugurating at Long Beach on Feb 19, which sounds pretty solid.  So sometimes there and sometimes here maybe? Not a three-way voyage? And also, where is CMA CGM home officed? Just curious if at least one of the “C”s stands for China?  Not obvious from their home page.

    • WSB March 1, 2016 (12:46 am)

      This is a tour of sorts. It went from Long Beach to Oakland (as we wrote the other day, in a story that also mentioned the “inauguration”) to Seattle. This is its first stop in Seattle but it was also on the West Coast late last year. You can see what CMA CGM stands for on its history page. (It’s all French)

      According to this page from its company website, it’s headquartered in Marseille. – TR

  • anonyme March 1, 2016 (6:50 am)

    As usual, big corporate gains come at the cost of the local environment.  This move will likely have a damaging effect on Puget Sound marine life, especially our resident killer whales.  Extinction is not a reasonable accommodation of business trends.

  • sam-c March 1, 2016 (8:21 am)

    That time lapse video is really cool.  I have a question/ debate to settle.

    Was there a different CMA CGM ship in the same general spot before this bigger one got here?  My husband (for some reason) refused to believe it got here Monday.  He keeps saying, “I don’t know what ‘the news’ is talking about- I saw that ship there on Sunday…”  I keep telling him it must have been a different one (I saw it too) but he doesn’t believe it….

    • WSB March 1, 2016 (8:28 am)

      Yes, there was. It was in the bay when the Benjamin Franklin arrived. I asked port staff about it and they said it just happened to be leaving. Looked almost as if it was waiting so they could take a family photo. I have a photo of both of them – will add here soon as I find it.

      • VJ March 1, 2016 (8:38 am)

        The CGA CGM ship in the harbor was not at anchor, they were swinging their compass. They left the berth around 0500, as is often the case one ship has to leave to open a spot for the inbound vessel.

  • AlkiRich March 1, 2016 (9:10 am)

    For those of us with a nautical interest but are still learning, what does “swinging their compass” mean in land lubber parlance?  And BTW, is our big ship gone by now? I was hoping to see it out of my windows but see nothing. Life goes on and I forgot about it.

    • VJ March 1, 2016 (10:05 am)


         This is form Swinging the compass is something you do when needed, which is not very often. Also, the vessel does not need to be at anchor, as stated below.

      Swinging the Compass

      Deviation is the problem of compass error due to structure of the vessel, proximity of metal objects, magnetic fields or electrical equipment. It may be influenced by loading cargo (e.g. canned fruit) or having repair work done (new metal parts or electronics). Deviation also varies with the ship’s head (way it is pointing) as this changes the position of the magnetic fields in the boat relative to the earth’s magnetic field as well as it’s relationship with interfering objects onboard.

      Individual vessels have individual deviation cards that show the adjustment required for changes in position of the vessel’s head. The process used to produce a deviation card is called ‘swinging the compass’. There are several methods for doing this but in general terms the procedure is as follows:

        1. The vessel is anchored securely in midstream

        2. A transit line of known bearing (magnetic bearing from the chart) is established

        3. The vessel moves through each of eight compass bearings (cardinal and inter-cardinal points)

        4. For each of the eight points the bearing of the transit line is taken and any discrepancy between this compass bearing and the known chart bearing is noted. If the compass bearing is greater the deviation is west, if less the deviation is east. 

    • AlkiRich March 1, 2016 (9:12 am)

      OK, I see the photos now, from just a couple minutes ago that answer my question about the ship’s position. Thanks.

      • WSB March 1, 2016 (9:33 am)

        Art – Here’s what your Port levy goes toward. It is paid by everyone in King County. And it went down this year.

        Rich – Yes, the BF is gone. We mentioned yesterday (and last week) that it was scheduled to depart around 8 am, and it did. I’m putting up one last photo (also courtesy of Lynn Hall) shortly – we were going to go out to catch it but traffic coverage got busy in the last hour.

        • AlkiRich March 1, 2016 (9:59 am)

          Thanks for that link on the Port’s budget. I just skimmed it but didn’t see a break out of Port income and expenses, just planned future big projects.  One might conclude the Port isn’t even close to a break even point on cost and just assumes Seattle will have to fork over a pile of moola on a continuing basis to keep it alive.  But maybe I’m missing something.

    • Artsea March 1, 2016 (9:21 am)

      If the Port is such a good thing for the Seattle economy, why isn’t it self-supporting?  Every year, my property tax bill shows that it apparently can’t survive without money from all of us.  The newest property tax bill shows it getting $72 million.  Why?   Wouldn’t we be better off just selling all that land to developers?

    • AlkiRich March 1, 2016 (9:48 am)

      ArtSea, I agree. I wonder that about a lot of the massively government subsidized programs here in Seattle, like Metro for example.  Where is the tipping point when the load from those in danger of drowning  drags down the rescuers who can swim but can only hold up so many noses out of the water. Nevertheless, I happen to like having Seattle be a viable port Now If we compete for business with other ports that heavily subsidize their facilities it forces everyone else to do the same to stay in the ball game. That makes it sound more like a card game than an individual case of sinking or swimming.  I’m looking for clarity here.

    Sorry, comment time is over.