An exciting event took place on Leap Day, as February 29th marked the arrival of the largest cargo ship to ever call on a Greater Seattle port (or any U.S. port for that matter). The French owned, Chinese built behemoth is longer than two Space Needles and can carry a massive 18,000TEUs!
The cargo ship, baptized CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, is a clear sign of the growth Seattle has been experiencing in recent years. Ensuring that our region remains a highly attractive port of call for marine cargo ships is key to job creation and creates lucrative linkages for Washington companies to the global market. According to the Seattle Times, it can be expected that goods from China, ranging from electronics to furniture, will be unloaded at the Port of Seattle, and Washington made goods ranging from machinery to agriculture will be loaded on before the ship departs.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance notes that the trend of increased cargo ships has a lot to do with a need to take into account economies of scale to reduce operational costs as well as decrease environmental impact. With the Panama Canal expansion project slated to be competed in the comping months, Greater Seattle’s ability to host ships of this magnitude, which is a feat not even the widened canal can boast, will be central to retaining our region’s completive edge. Maritime trade is ideal for a diverse economy and according to the 2013 Northwest Seaport Alliance’s data, container ships create 18,900 jobs directly, 11,100 jobs indirectly, and 18,100 induced jobs.
As Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wonderfully put it “Seattle is a hub for trade, it's a hub for trade for the state, and it's a hub for trade for the region.” Therefore, Consider the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin as both a test and crystal ball of the region’s economic activity. If logistics are accounted for and infrastructure is expanded and upgraded, expect to see future massive cargo ships in Seattle’s ports. As history shows and Mayor Murray stated “shipping is still at the heart of our identity.”