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121209-014-682x1024Well, actually, just an enormous container ship carrying containers presumably stuffed with christmas goods. Last week Southampton was a port of call for what is currently the world’s largest container ship, the CMA CGM Marco Polo. Andrew Sassoli-Walker, whose pictures I’ve been able to feature here in the past past, was on hand to record the event both for posterity and for DP World.

The Marco Polo pretty much beggars sensible description: it’s truly enormous, being almost 400 metres long and 54 metres wide. Actually, that doesn’t help me that much, but  I’ve worked out that in old money it’s just about a quarter of a mile long and almost three cricket wickets wide. More significantly it has a capacity of 16,020 TEUs, and a TEU is a ‘Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit’ – in other words, it can take just over 16,000 medium-sized containers. Containerisation has been the real engine of globalisation and has made the cost of international transportation stupidly cheap; it will almost certainly cost more per container to move them from Southampton to the whichever logistics and distribution centre that each one will be going to here in the UK than it cost to convey the same container from China to Southampton. (For anyone interested in getting the history of containerisation, the book ‘The Box‘ by Marc Levinson is an authoritative account.)

Here’s a link to a page by CMA CGA about the Marco Polo, and below are some more of Andrew’s excellent pictures. You’ll notice how he’s cunningly included the day’s crop of cruise ships in some of them – thanks, Andrew. So here are a few more of his images:


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