Stacking the Deck

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges

Panamax container vessel Maersk Carolina is loaded with cargo from the Wando Terminal at the Port of Charleston, SC on May 16, 2016.

In 2016, when this photo was made, roughly 90 percent of the world’s goods were carried by sea, with over 70 percent in containers carrying everything from flat-screen TVs to sportswear from Asia to the rest of the world. This particular vessel, Maersk Carolina, was on her way to a final year of service. At just 29 years old, she had outlived her usefulness. Built in 1998 in Ulsan, South Korea by Hyundai, she is 292 meters long, 32.25 meters wide, with a draft of 6.5 meters. For those of us without metric conversion tables, that means she’s about the length of two-and-a-half football fields, about as wide as three school buses parked nose to tail, and the keel would touch bottom if the water was less than 22 feet deep. She only carries 4.324 TEU (Twenty foot Equivalent Units) each of which, conveniently, is the size of your average shipping container. But, alas, she is obsolete by today’s standards. Today, ports like Charleston are dredged to a depth of 52 feet to allow vessels that can carry three times the TEUs.

When she was built she was considered one of the largest vessels to be able to navigate the Panama Canal and, as such, was called a “Panamax” and was given the name Grete Maersk. When she was about four years old, her name was changed to Maersk Carolina and she sailed the high seas under a US flag. Her home was in Virginia, but she sailed all over the world. One sad day in 2003, she encountered heavy sees off Newfoundland in a storm that ripped and crushed containers stacked on her deck. Sources in Halifax said more than 130 containers, a mix of reefers (refrigerated boxes) and dry boxes went over the side in the storm. The ship was en route to Halifax from the Mediterranean. Fortunately, all personnel on board were safe. They were all American citizens. In her final chapter, Carolina was stacked with cargo in Charleston, SC bound for as far away as Antwerp, Belgium and on to a final destination: to be broken up and recycled at Jiangyin Xiagang Changjiang Ship Recycling in China.

This tale will be included in a collection of stories I’m working on about the experiences and encounters we have aboard Seanachai, our 1986 Catalina 22, home ported in Charleston SC. For now, it’s my contribution to Dutch Goes the Photo Tuesday Photo Challenge: Stack

Maersk Carolina 958 ft long, 106 ft. wide, carried up to 4,324 20 ft. boxes of cargo

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