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One of world's largest container ships, MSC Fabiola, came to San Francisco this afternoon


San Francisco to Lawrence, Kansas

I don't normally do blogs about San Francisco for the Lawrence paper. But this is an exception for a number of reasons.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by ships - especially because I never saw one on either coast until I was much older. I grew up in Hutchinson, and then moved to Lawrence. I never saw a real ship until I left for Europe in the armed forces.

But today was a special event. I didn't even know about it until I went out to my car to go to Whole Foods for a sandwich. A friend came out of her house and said that there was a huge container ship coming from China. It would pass underneath the Golden Gate Bridge at about 4:07, and then make its way to Oakland. We left immediately. The sandwich was forgotten.

World's largest container ship ever to come to North America

It turned out that this was the largest container ship ever sent to the North American coast. I don't know if its true, but she said it was larger than the Empire State building is tall. The ship has the length of four football fields. It weights 146,093 metric tons. It is 1,201 feet long. It has a top speed of 25.3 knots.

We took off for the Presidio, the Federal Park by the ocean in San Francisco. As we neared the park, I saw that the fog was coming in quickly, right above the water. We parked and walked out to a pier close to the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind also came up quite strongly.

We met a lot of people, some from around the world, who were also waiting for the container ship to appear. But the fog increased, and we could now hardly see in front of ourselves. Finally we had to go to a coffeehouse nearby (Chrissy Field, if you know San Francisco).

At 5:00 the coffee shop closed, and we went outside. The fog began to clear suddenly, and soon the container ship was directly ahead of us, heading past Alcatraz towards Oakland.

Even at a great distance, it was of considerable size. We waited until the ship was completely out of sight, then came back home.

Why is it named the USS Fabiola from Monrovia?

I don't know why it was called the MSC Fabiola from Monrovia, when it had been sailing from China. Does anyone know? I do know that Fabiola is a common first name for girls in Liberia, and it flies under the flag of Liberia.

About two hours after I arrived home, I checked the Internet, and the San Jose Mercury News had just put up a tremendous web site of photographs. You can see the fog slowly lifting in the distance.

Show it to your kids. Tell them all you can about ships and maps. Tell them about knots and speed. This is their chance to become familiar with one of the newest and finest container ships in the world. They can also learn about Liberia, in Africa.

And in Oakland they have to unload it completely tonight, so that it can begin its journey back to China tomorrow.

I wish I could have made contact via email to the captain and crew of the ship. But to the present time, there has been no luck in finding such information.

Take a look. It happened this afternoon. Have your kids share the web sight at school. They might even like to have some models of similar ships to build.


And here's the article in the Chronicle, which just came out. It's good for more information, but the photographs above are just tremendous.



blindrabbit 5 years, 12 months ago

Not "USS" but "SS"! USS is reserved for US Navy ships and stands for "United States Ship", the term SS is used throughout the world and stands for "Steam Ship", as most ocean going ships are powered by steam produced by coal, oil or nuclear. Some smaller ships are diesel powered (still SS) and some more modern ones are gas turbines (like a jet engine and still SS).

In Navy we sailed under Golden Gate many times; regardless of the occasion, most sailors came out on deck (regardless of rain, cold,, rough seas and especially fog) to welcome the City or leaving, looking forward to a Pacific deployment. San Francisco, one of the world's great cities.

RoeDapple 5 years, 12 months ago

The MSC Fabiola was built in South Korea but is registered in Monrovia. Hope that helps.

RoeDapple 5 years, 12 months ago

Actually operates under the Liberia flag and is owned by PAX.

riverdrifter 5 years, 12 months ago

You can tell it's still a down economy: lots of container vacancies on this ship. By now, those containers will have been loaded directly on mile long run-through trains and are headed throughout North America. If they are land-bridge traffic, they're headed for the east coast to be loaded on other ships for furtherance to Europe.

blindrabbit 5 years, 12 months ago

Interestingly, the reason there are so many empty shipping containers for sale here in the US is that many are designed for one-time use. Says something about the balance of trade when the Chinese do not want there empty containers returned (and they certainly will not be full of US goods going back). I was suprised last year when I rented a brand-new (one way use) container from a local rental firm, quality construction, Chinese made! Should have bought instead of renting.

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 12 months ago

blindrabbit and any other readers - do you have any photographs of when you came into San Francisco, perhaps from Navy times?

I also greatly appreciated RoeDapple's comments on where the ship is registered. Does this mean that the ship actually ever has to go to Liberia? Is it because regulations are less when a ship is registered in Africa?

And riverdrifter also had a good point. I never thought to see how many empty container spaces there are on this ship.

Have any other readers been on container ships?

This could be very important for classrooms. I never thought about how the containers are going to various parts of the US and perhaps Europe. It would make some great projects to bring it all together.

Perhaps even a board game, which could be sold by Lawrence schools?

I could try to reach by email the container ship's captain as well as the pilot of the tugboat, if schools are interested in the project.

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