Built in South Korea – which today stands at the centre of international tension over the nuclear intentions of its northern neighbour – you could call it “the mother of all ships’’.
The world’s largest vessel of any kind currently plying its trade on the high seas made a Hong Kong stopover as part of its maiden voyage to France on Saturday.
The arrival of the massive MOL Triumph – which is big enough to accommodate 80 Star Ferries – was made possible after a multimillion-dollar project to deepen Hong Kong’s navigation channels.
At 400 metres long and 59 metres wide, it arrived from Ningbo in eastern Zhejiang province at 2.30am yesterday.
The MOL Triumph has a capacity of 20,170 twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) and is the first container ship to break the 20,000 mark.
Built by Samsung Heavy Industries, it is the first of six 20,000 TEU-class deliveries to Japanese shipping firm Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and will be deployed on the Asia-Europe trade route.
Gerry Yim, managing director of Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) – which manages 16 berths at five terminals at Kwai Tsing container port – said the call of the mega vessel was an important landmark in cementing Hong Kong’s long-standing position as a key global port.
The city – which was listed as the fourth busiest port in the world in 2015, has since been eclipsed by Shenzhen in terms of container traffic, with the nearby ports of Guangzhou and Xiamen catching up quickly.
To accommodate larger vessels, the government undertook a dredging exercise to deepen the Kwai Tsing container basin and its approach channel.
The HK$490 million project, which began in 2013, was completed last year.
Transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said: “Mega vessels are becoming a container shipping trend. Our newly dredged approach channel with a navigation depth of 17 metres can accommodate mega vessels in all tides. We look forward to receiving more of such vessels in the future.
“With its strategic location, free port status, world-class infrastructure and world-renowned efficiency, Hong Kong is one of the most popular ports in the world.”
After a 14-hour stop, the vessel set off for the port of Yantian in neighbouring Shenzhen at 5pm the same afternoon, before continuing to Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
Its status as the world’s largest container ship in service seems to be short-lived however, as the 20,568-TEU Madrid Maersk was delivered on April 11 and is expected to be in operation soon.
(Raymond Yeung via SCMP News contributed to this report)