Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Leap Day Tour of the Container Ship Benjamin Franklin

A Leap Day Tour of the Container Ship Benjamin Franklin

On February 29,  Monday  morning, the admiral woke me up to come see the largest container ship to ever visit the U.S. pass by in Elliot Bay on the way to the Port of Seattle. After looking out our living room window at the ship I retreated to the coffee pot. The Morning News was full of the story of this huge ship named the Benjamin Franklin coming to Seattle.  The Admiral told me that earlier in the broadcast they mentioned there would be a tour of the ship on this day. 
We had some morning grandparent activities to do so I thought I might check out the ship later in the day. We got home around noon and as I was eating some lunch I searched on the internet to see if I might be able to tour the ship. The port is only about a 15 minute drive from where we live. I could not find anything at all about a tour on any of the news channels websites. I told the Admiral I would just drive down to Harbor Island and find Terminal 18 and see if I could get on the ship. 
I had been on Harbor Island once before just to check out the port and take some pictures. there is no public parking and every single parking lot is for official cars only. I did park for a while and walk about for a short time just to take some pics through the security fencing. So I felt certain that I could find Terminal 18. 
I turned in at the sign I saw for Terminal 18. Immediately a woman directed me away from the gate and to s small parking lot. I stopped and rolled down my window. I told her I had heard about the tour of the ship Benjamin Franklin at Terminal 18. She hollered across the small road I was on, the directions to Gate 4. She told me to drive slow and be careful. After I got turned around and pointed the right way she came out of the building and pointed to the correct lane I needed to drive in. It seemed like I was driving to far but the street curved and I saw a sign for Gate 3. There was lots of truck traffic coming from every direction now so I carefully crossed the next street and saw the sign for Gate 4. I followed this street to a dead end, there was a gate to the right and another long street to the left. I could see no signs on the gate to the right so I followed the street to the left and was thankful to find Gate 4.

I parked in small lot just to the right of this sign.I walked over to the Gate office just to the left of Gate 4 and talked to the security guy. I told him I was here for the tour of the Benjamin Franklin. He looked me over and asked where I parked. I pointed to my car and he said that would be OK. He told me to walk to a small building near an adjacent parking lot. He told me to not go in the building but to just wait in front and soon a bus would come by and pick me up.

I took this picture through the fence while I was waiting. You can just see the ship over the stacks of containers. 

This guy in a pick up with a flashing yellow light stopped by me. The driver got out and asked who I worked for. I told him I wrote for an online blog that was featuring different aspects of the Puget Sound Region and I heard about the tour so I was interested in seeing the ship. He asked me the name of the Blog. I told him "Wand'rin Star." He handed me a yellow vest and a Hard Hat and told me put it on and get in the truck,

The driver was very nice and as we were driving to the ship I asked him several questions. He told me the City of Seattle owns the land the port is on. The Seattle Port Authority Hired SSA http://www.ssamarine.com/services/index.html to manage the Terminal Management which includes the Stevedore work which are the labor union organized longshoreman who load and off load the ships. He works for SSA as well. I asked him if the Port of Tacoma could handle the larger container ships. He said they could not since they do not have a terminal with deep enough water and they do not have the larger white cranes that are needed to offload containers from the ships. He dropped me off at the gangway to the ship and told me I would have to present my ID as I boarded the ship and to just tell the guy that I was with the group who just boarded ahead of me. The crew in the picture was at the top of the gangplank and asked for my ID. I handed him my Texas DL and he wrote the info in the logbook. He then handed me a clip on badge and my ID back. I asked him where I do go now?. I am not sure if he understood my request but finally he pointed towards the direction of a long hallway so I took the short stairs leading over the yellow and black strips. 

Looking aft along the Starboard side B deck which is the ships  main container deck level

Looking forward on the Starboard side B Deck

At the end of the hallway another crew popped out and escorted me up to the Bridge deck and the Wheel House. He introduced me to a small group of dignitaries and the Ships Captain Velibor Krpan. Later someone mentioned he was a Croatian. He was everything you might imagine a ship captain to be, in short he had a very  Commanding presence! He told a story about sailing into Chinese ports where there are lots of small fishing vessels everywhere. In most waters there are coast guard regulations that guide the behavior of vessels at sea, but in China there are none. He has to be very careful to avoid hitting the numerous fishing vessels that refuse to get out of the way. VHF communication with those vessels is not possible either due to the fishing vessels not having VHF radios or being unable to interpret their communication. He said the vessel weighs just over 250 thousand tons fully loaded and stopping is a long process. The ship has a single prop and two huge bow thrusters.

I asked the Captain if it was OK to take pictures and he said "Of course" so first, I went out on the port side Bridge Wing and started from there. Everyone in a hard hat is a visitor, There were about 20-25 people touring the vessel. They seemed to belong to three groups: A group of importers/exporters, a group of reporters, and a small group of dignitaries.

Looking aft from the Port Bridge wing. You can see that the white cranes just clear the top level of containers. Seattle just has a couple of terminals with the larger white cranes. The smaller orange color cranes at most of the terminals are to small for these huge ships.

Looking forward from the port bridge wing. 

Looking down from the bridge wing.

Taken from the end of the bridge wing to the wheel house

A couple of spot lights and a ships compass on the bridge wing.

If you can't find your way with this you are LOST!

Lots of electronics and a mast on the top of the wheel house.

This navigation area is separated from the main area of the Wheel House. Not sure why they need a curtain along the length of this area unless they need to keep it darker in there for some reason?

All of the electronics have a repeater. The same instruments on the port side of the instrument panel are also on the starboard side of the instrument panel. 

The steering station is located just behind the center engine controls on the instrument panel. 

The guy that sits here in the center controls the throttle to everything.

AIS or Automated Identification System

Chart Plotter

Ship heading speed and rudder angle and lots of other ship related data.

The Port side panel has a camera/monitor on the bow. The bow is not visible from the bridge due to the height of the containers.

Captain Velibor Krpan was a very gracious host and took pictures with all that requested. 


See: http://www.cma-cgm-blog.com/cma-cgm-benjamin-franklin/

Over to the Starboard bridge wing.

Lot of great views.

All sides of the Port are visible from this height.

Mount Rainier came out for the Benjamin Franklin

A crane Operator is just over head.

It takes about 60 seconds for the crane operator to lift a container off the ship and deposit it on a waiting truck below.

Pretty amazing how fast they work.

A couple of barges rafted up on a mooring. the Container barge is the smallest of the container shipping fleets. These barges move smaller numbers of containers all over the Pacific Northwest including up to Alaska.

The Coast Guard docks right in the thick of it.

As you can see the Bridge is located near midships rather than on the aft end like most of the container ships.

This is the commons area for the passenger rooms. 

A little art for the passengers.

They have five  passenger rooms like this one, It has a large living area and

A queen size berth and

a large bathroom and shower with lots of storage. These passenger berths go for about $150 per night. Way bigger than any cruise ship passenger rooms! Only a little over two months old, it still had that new ship smell. 

The five passenger cabins are on this deck + the commons area. We did not see any of the crew cabins so I asked our guide if the crew had to share quarters. He said no, all 29 crew had there own cabin. 

10 Deck Levels.

Lots of stairs to go up and down. Now we are on the A Deck Level headed for the engine room. 

This companion way runs the length of the ship, Over 400 yards total looking forward

Looking forward. The ship has a double hull so the steel plate to the right is the exterior wall. The water begins about 20 feet below this deck. The steel plate on the left is the interior hull that protects the ship in case the exterior hull is breached.

We take a left turn here toward the engine room and there are two big green pumps whirring along pumping fresh or seawater. 
Those shelves on the left have a lot of pipe, angel iron and flat iron to use for any required repairs.It is really warn in here. 

One Huge engine! Burns Number 1 Diesel Oil which is a thick sludge that has to be super heated prior to being used by the engine. It is really noisy in here and the engine is not even running.   

This is looking down at the engine deck level which you can see is actually suspended by shock absorbing construction to reduce any vibration created by the huge engine. 

The ceiling is covered in a reflective  heat resistant and sound absorbing material. 

Lots of spare parts like these giant bearings. One of the crew said they carry at least two of every spare on board.

The huge exhaust muffler leading up the smoke stack.

Spare Cylinder heads.

view from the aft end.

The adjacent control room for the engine, Two huge generators on the deck below the engine produce all the AC electrical currant. the generators produce enough electricity for a small city. I'm guessing this is sound proof insulating glass and the chief engineer and his crew spend most of their time in there. 

Looking down to the deck below the engine that has the major pumps and generators for the ship. A crew told me that you absolutely have to have those big head set type of ear protection since it is very loud in the engine room when the engine is running. 
Time to go, so this time I leave with the group.

This very long companion way is supported by several pairs of steel cables but is bounces up and down with every step.

I asked the purpose of the net and they said just in case someone falls.

No matter what angle I took the picture as I was departing it was impossible to get an image that depicted the massive size of this ship.

The Captain gave all the visitors a Commemorative Gift

The 3D engraved Crystal to commentate the visit.
The engraving reads CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin Inauguration Long Beach - February 19, 2016

The Benjamin Franklin Departs the Port of Seattle the next morning bound for China

The maiden voyage of the Benjamin Franklin was a public relations tour and a test for the Captain, crew, harbor pilots, tugs and the ports to see if the West Coast and all involved could measure up to the needs such a huge ship demands. There are a lot of emerging changes in the shipping industry as the new channel in the Panama Canal nears completion April 2016. West Coast Ports have to stay competitive since most of the ships they service now will easily fit through the new canal. The Gulf of Mexico Coast and the East Coast have been doing their own expansion projects to lure all the new business that is about to come their way. Something like 170 of these new monster ships to be built,  that will not fit in through the canal,  will in the foreseeable future be the bread and butter of those ports that can accommodate them. It is obvious that Seattle is working hard to be in the mix. 
I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to join the Seattle Welcoming Committee, meet the Captain, and tour the largest container ship to enter US waters.

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