One of the things I like most about being a journalist is the access you get to some extraordinary people and events. Yesterday was no exception. My first job for Al Jazeera TV was boarding the Majestic Maersk – the largest ship in the world. It’s docked in Copenhagen for the next few days and has become the attraction everyone’s talking about, and visiting.
You can’t miss it – it’s enormous. At 400 metres long it’s the length of four football pitches. It can hold 18,000 containers, like the sort you’d see on the back of a removal van. And I know it’s high too because this morning my legs are killing me, after walking up so many steps. But the views across Copenhagen and out to sea were spectacular. (My iphone photos don’t really do it justice, but you get the picture.)
Here’s the techie bit. The Majestic Maersk is one of three Triple-E class container ships in service. It was built in South Korea for the Danish company Maersk to move goods along the Asia to Europe route. Yet despite its size, it sails at slower speeds, thanks in part to its smaller engines and double propeller system. It means CO2 emissions are cut in half for every container moved, compared to the industry average.
From a news point of view, it’s an interesting decision by Maersk to commission these ships. There are expected to be 20 in operation within the next couple of years, at a total cost of almost $4 billion US. That’s a huge amount of cash to spend on shipping when profits are generally down. The route itself is already over-capacity. But Lars Jensen, a shipping analyst I interviewed, told me he thinks the Triple-Es will be fine. It’s the smaller, older ships that will suffer from the gigantic newcomers.
And already rival companies have commissioned even larger container ships. It seems in shipping Big is considered Best.