French shipping line CMA CGM SA will no longer run the vessel Benjamin Franklin—the largest container ship to ever call at U.S. ports—between Asia and the West Coast, according to The Wall Street Journal. The ship was replaced with a smaller vessel, the Leo, less than five months into its service on the trans-Pacific route, according to BlueWater Reporting, which tracks ocean sailing schedules.
A spokesman for CMA CGM confirmed in an email that the carrier decided to postpone the deployment of megaships to the U.S. West Coast. According to documents on CMA CGM’s website, the Benjamin Franklin is now running a route between Asia and Europe, where larger ships are more commonly used.
The Benjamin Franklin can carry nearly 18,000 20-foot shipping containers, or TEUs, marking a capacity record when it docked at the Port of Los Angeles late last year. On a second trip to neighboring Long Beach in February, CMA CGM held inaugural festivities, including tours of the ship, and named Shelley McMillon, wife of Walmart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Doug McMillon, “Godmother” of the vessel.
At the time, CMA CGM founder and Chief Executive Jacques Saadé told the crowd that the company was so confident in the U.S. economy and the demand for freight capacity that the carrier planned to launch six more vessels of the same size on its trans-Pacific “Pearl River Express” route.
It soon became clear the extra capacity wasn’t needed on the Trans-Pacific lane, where a glut of shipping capacity has driven freight rates to record lows. The decision, which CMA CGM disclosed in April, also came as the company arranged a new capacity-sharing alliance with China’s Cosco Group and other rivals. Some analysts speculated that CMA CGM’s partners weren’t interested in adding a fleet of giant ships to the already well-serviced trans-Pacific route.
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