February 29th is rare, and, in my experience, often memorable. This year was no exception. It was out of the ordinary in that I awoke to the news that a Giant had arrived. It was docked just a few miles away!
The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin had come into port overnight, guided by pilot vessels, and heralded by our local media. This is the biggest ship ever to call on our port – the first of the New Panamax ships that I initially learned about during our “Working Waterfront” Port of Seattle Tour last September. It measures over 1300 feet in length, over 175 feet in width, and rises 200 feet above the water. In a contrast, the “ordinary” Panamax vessels that we saw last fall were approximately 1,050 by 110.
The Port of Seattle, as part of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, celebrated this historic visit with a welcoming ceremony. This took place against the backdrop of this huge new container ship and the powerful water spray from a “real” local fireboat.
Our Port Commissioner, Mayor, and others involved in the planning and preparations to prepare the terminal and make this arrival possible, were on hand to speak. Many of them touched on the importance of this in terms of new economic opportunities and commerce, and our region’s future because of the investments that have been made here.
More interested in the vessel itself, I later looked for a different viewpoint. I headed to a rather obscure waterfront park – that, until I ran an internet search, had not known by name. A handful of others with phone cameras and one local TV news station had discovered it as well, but it wasn’t crowded and it provided a great perspective. The photos here were taken from there.
To me, and perhaps to others who were observant, we were displacing some people who may live in or spend a great deal of time in that park (the park was very clean, but I saw grills and other indications). At that moment, everyone was lined up with us at water’s edge, perhaps some genuinely curious about this new massive vessel, and others perhaps trying to blend in. I was happy to see that people were engaging with each other and for a (brief?) moment, everyone was focused on that “newcomer.”
As with many situations, I noted the contrasts. Yes, there were the obvious economic contrasts: “Have’s” and “Have-Nots” in close proximity – not only those of us in the park, but those who own these huge vessels or those who were offered the opportunity to come aboard as it arrived, versus those of us who watch these big vessels from shore, or all vessels from shore, and get our own “boating fix” from ferries or more modest boats.
I also noted technological and environmental contrasts; and of course, the contrast of scale. This cargo ship dwarfed every vessel in the port today… and every vessel that has EVER been here. I wonder to myself (and to you) what will best that in the future? What’s next?
Today, I also spotted our local “Spirit of Seattle” tour boat, the same one that we toured these waterways on last fall. I snapped a photo as it passed by the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin as I was taking photos from the park. It looked like a child’s toy, as compared to that massive cargo ship…yet I recall that this 3-level boat seemed big and roomy when I was aboard, standing on that 3rd level deck last September.
So, on this Leap Day, during this Leap Year, I take a “Leap of faith” in hoping that this Sleeping Giant at Terminal 18 in Seattle tonight, is a harbinger of good things and wonderful opportunities that would extend to our entire community and region. The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin departs in the morning….