fastest cargo ship in the world

As mentioned in the posts before this one, I spent my early career as a ship’s officer working on board oil tankers. When Tommy was a toddler, we actually lived in Point Richmond, on San Francisco Bay, right next to the Chevron refinery. Tommy and I would walk from our house down to the bay, and we could see the Chevron “long wharf” and the tankers I worked on from that vantage point.

Richmond Long Wharf, looking west toward Marin County and Mount Tamalpais

Richmond Long Wharf, looking west toward Marin County and Mount Tamalpais

In subsequent years, I worked for different companies on other types of merchant ships, including freighters, containerships, and passenger ships. One of the containerships I worked on in the late 1970s was the Sea-Land McLean, pictured below:

The SS Sea-Land McLean, later renamed the SS Capella, is an SL-7 containership. At 33 knots (38 miles per hour) the SL-7s are the fastest cargo ships in the world.

The SL-7s are awesome ships: 946 feet long, 2 gigantic steam engines and 2 propellers, horsepower of 120,000 hp.  Because they burn so much oil at those high speeds, the original owner (Sea-Land) could no longer afford to operate them. They sold all of the SL-7s to the U.S. Navy in the early 1980s, which now keeps them on standby for emergencies such as the gulf war.

As the price of fuel oil has gone up over the years, ship operators such as Sea-Land have switched over to ships fitted with diesel engines instead of steam. Diesel engines get much better fuel mileage than steam engines. An example is the President Garfield, which I mentioned in an earlier post. As I mentioned in that post, Tom made a trip up the coast with me on the Garfield, and while he was on board he spent a lot of time down in the engine room. He was amazed at the awesome size of the pistons in that huge diesel engine: he stood beside the spare piston that was lashed to the engine room bulkhead, and it was so huge that it made him feel tiny as he looked up at it.












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