The MSC Fabiola, which is about one-third larger than a normal cargo ship, became the largest vessel to enter the San Francisco Bay when it slipped under the Golden Gate bridge yesterday. At 1,201 feet, the Fabiola is nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall and approaches the limits of the shipping channel in the San Francisco Bay.

As Captain Bruce Horton, who has an awesome captain's name and is the President of the San Francisco Bar Pilots, informatively explained to NBC Bay Area:

...given the length and width of the MSC Fabiola it will closely approach the limited size of the channel and turning basin of the bay. It's an extra challenge for us. These close tolerances, together with visibility and handling difficulties, require more precise navigational aids to protect the Bay and the precious cargo, which helps support California's economy.

Horton also added: "In my 23 years as a San Francisco Bar Pilot, this is the most exciting day ever."

Built in 2010 and sailing under a Liberian flag, the Fabiola has a capacity for 12,500 shipping containers. Laid end-to-end, those containers would make a 50-mile train. The Fabiola stopped in the Port of Long Beach before making the trip up the coast to the San Francisco Bay, where it is currently docked in the Port of Oakland. She'll leave again on Thursday for an 18-day trip back to China.

For the shipping fetishists, NBC has aerial footage of the big girl chugging in to the Bay:

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