Anyone near the Golden Gate, Embarcadero, Treasure Island, or the Port of Oakland is going to get a bit of a low-key show today as one of the world's most massive container ships is arriving at the Port of Oakland.
The MSC Anna is a full 1,312 feet long — about 100 feet longer than the average cargo ship and nearly 300 feet longer than Salesforce Tower is tall. As KPIX reports, it's pulling into the Port of Oakland for the first time Thursday afternoon, and accommodating a ship this huge has required a decade of dredging, raising cranes, and extra training and computer simulations for the bar pilots who will take control of the ship when it enters the Bay.
Some of that extra training was recently occurring at the California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo.
"The San Francisco Bay is one of the most challenging pilotage grounds in the world and safely piloting these huge ships requires expertise and significant training,” says Capt. Joseph Long, president of the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association, in a statement to KPIX.
In the list of large container ships traipsing the oceans, the MSC Anna ranks high among them — with the top 15 all measuring 400 meters in length, the same as the MSC Anna. The extra width and height of the ship make it an extra challenge for getting safely into the Bay and under two bridges, into port.
A ship that was nearly as big as the MSC Anna, the CMA Benjamin Franklin, came into the Bay back in 2016, and the video below shows the bridge of the ship barely clearing the Golden Gate Bridge as it passed underneath.
In a release earlier this week, the Port of Oakland announced the Thursday arrival of the MSC Anna — which as of 11 a.m. was off the San Mateo coast, and it is expected to dock in Oakland sometime this afternoon.
The ship can carry 19,200 20-foot cargo containers, a full 1,200 more than the CMA Benjamin Franklin showed above.
"We’ve spent years, and millions of dollars keeping ahead of the pace of trade and the size of ships,” says Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan in a statement. "We’re ready for the MSC Anna and we’ll welcome her back any time."
The boat will spend 24 hours in Oakland offloading imports — everything from clothes and shoes to consumer electronics, furniture, and toys — and taking on exports. As Port of Oakland spokesperson Mike Zampa tells SFGate, ships this big are typically used for longer hauls between Asia and Europe, but they are sometimes used on this route to pick up a backlog of empty containers at the Port of Long Beach.
During the pandemic lockdown, trade activity at the Port of Los Angeles is down 30 percent, according to Zampa, while the Port of Oakland has seen cargo volume down about 11 percent so far.
Photo of a smaller container ship entering the Bay by Will Truettner