Seawise Giant: The Largest Ship Ever Built

The Seawise Giant, also known as Knock Nevis, Jahre Viking, Happy Giant, Oppama and Mont was the largest ship, to ever sail in the international waters! The Supertanker was built in Japan, in the year 1979, and was finally scrapped in 2010, in India. For the 31 years it roamed around the globe, it was entangled with numerous dramatic and interesting incidents. In this article, we take a look at all of it, from it’s birth, to the last knell of death.

Seawise Giant The Largest Ship Ever Built Knock Nevis Jahre Viking Oppama Happy Giant Mont

Facts and Specifications of The Seawise Giant

The Seawise Giant was a ULCC Vessel (Ultra Large Crude Carriers). As the name suggests, ULCCs are usually humongous, and are the largest sailing ships in the high seas. The ship was ordered in the year 1974, and was delivered in 1979, by Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd., Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan. She had the greatest deadweight tonnage (DWT) ever recorded, of 657,019 tonnes, when fully laden!

Despite of being the longest (458.45 meter / 1,504.1 feet) and the heaviest ship made by mankind, the Seawise Giant ranks sixth in terms of gross tonnage, with a capacity of 260,941 GT. The supertanker had a draft of 24.611 meter (80.74 feet) and a beam of 68.6 meter (225.07 feet). This made her incapable of navigating through the English Channel, Suez Canal and the Panama Canal (before it was widened). Her rudder weighed 230 tons, while the propeller alone, weighed 50 tons.

The Seawise Giant had a 214,793 NT (Net Tonnage) and a 564,763 DWT (Dead-Weight Tonnage) respectively. She had a capacity of 4.1 million barrels, and a speed of 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph), while Mitsubishi V2M8 boilers, Sumitomo Stal-Laval AP Steam Turbine (50,000 HP) and Ljungström Turbine Technology powered her.

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The Story of Seawise Giant: A Dramatic Life, With A Multitude of Names!

The unrealistic story of the Seawise Giant, starts from the year 1974, when she was ordered by a Greek shipping tycoon, during a time, when the oil market was booming. The construction of this engineering marvel took five years to complete. Her ever-lasting friendship with odds, started even before the vessel could set commercial sail. As, in 1979, the Greek magnate refused to take the delivery from Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Oppama shipyard in Yokosuka, Japan, after she exhibited severe vibrational problems while going astern, during the sea trials. This resulted in the ship remaining unnamed and under a lengthy arbitration proceeding. After a series of negotiations, she was finally sold to a Chinese shipping kingpin, named C.Y. Tung (the founder of Hong Kong based Orient Overseas Container Lines), who ordered a refitting, which lengthened the ship by several meters, to add an additional cargo capacity of 146,152 tonnes. This made her the largest ship to ever sail! Before the delivery, she was named ‘Oppama’, by S.H.I, only to be renamed as ‘Seawise Giant’, when she set sail, two years later.

Fun Fact: The word ‘Seawise’ was taken from the initials of it’s Chinese owner, ‘C.Y’ Tung!

The Seawise Giant finally set sail in the year 1981. She primarily voyaged to-and-from the Middle East, and the United States. Things went smooth for the next seven years, until the climax of the Iran-Iraq war, which started back in 1980.

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The World’s Largest Ship Sinks

You read that correct. The Seawise Giant sank, and was declared a total loss! It happened in 14th May, 1988. The ship was anchored off Larak Island, Iraq, when she was struck by parachute bombs, launched by the Iraqi Airforce, in an attack to choke Iran’s oil-pipeline. The vessel was ravaged with fire, and sank in the shallow waters, off the coast, and was written off. The world’s largest ship, was now, the world’s largest shipwreck!

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Seawise Giant Gets A Second Life

Does the greatest ship on earth deserve to rot in the sea floor? It doesn’t right? In 1989, after the Iran-Iraq war ended, a Norwegian consortium, Norman International, bought the shipwreck. The new owners pulled her off from the shallow waters. She was then towed to the Keppel Corporation shipyard, in Singapore, where the ship was significantly salvaged and repaired, for the next two years.

After the repairs, in 1991, she was renamed to ‘Happy Giant’. The ship was sold off to Jørgen Jahre, a Norwegian shipping mogul for $39 million, who renamed her again, to ‘Jahre Viking’. The Jahre Viking finally started sailing again, in 1991. She continued to sail in the high seas, for the next thirteen years, when, in 2004, the shipowners realized the Jahre Viking to be largely unfeasible. The fact that engineering marvels aren’t always the most practical solutions was proved, as the ship turned into a liability for the shipowners. Captains and pilots have always incurred pain in maneuvering the gigantic tanker. The draft of 81-foot left the Jahre Viking incapable of transiting through crucial channels and canals, like the English Channel, Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, as the ship posed a real risk of getting aground. The changing oil markets of the 21st century too, demanded swift and technologically equipped vessels, the Jahre Viking had neither of the two.

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Jahre Viking Becomes A Storage Unit

In 2004, Jahre Viking was sold to First Olsen Tankers Pte., a Norwegian shipping company. The shipowners renamed Jahre Viking to ‘Knock Nevis’ and permanently moored the vessel in the Persian Gulf’s Al Shaheen Oil Field, off the coast of Qatar, and converted the giant ship into an immobile offshore platform, also known as, a Floating Storage and Offloading Unit (FSO). For the next five years, she was used as a storage vessel.

The End Game

The Knock Nevis continued to serve as an FSO for the next five years, till 2009. After which, the owners realized the behemoth being impractical as a storage unit too, owing to it’s decades old build, and a massive size. It was now the time, for the greatest ship in the world to finally meet it’s fate. She was sold to Amber Development in the year 2009, reflagged to Sierra Leone, and was renamed for the final time, to ‘Mont’.

She then headed to her final voyage, to the Alang-Sosiya Ship-Breaking Yards, in India in January, 2010. Mont was finally scrapped by Priyablue Industries, at the Alang Ship-Breaking Yards. Dismantling the giant took a year, and 18,000 laborers. The ship’s 36 tonne anchor was saved, and was donated to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

The story of the Seawise Giant proves, that time is more powerful than weapons! She managed to survive a missile attack by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Airforce, but later collapsed to the changing demands of the new oil market. Rightfully said, ‘change, is the only constant’.

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A Quick Fact Table

Provided below, is a quick fact table, which contains a summary, of all we’ve read till now:

Vessel NameOppama (1979)
Seawise Giant (1979–1991)
Happy Giant (1991)
Jahre Viking (1991–2004)
Knock Nevis (2004–2009)
Mont (2009–2010)
Vessel Owner(s)Loki Stream AS (1991–2004)
First Olsen Tankers Pte. (2004–2009)
Amber Development (2009–2010)
Vessel Operator(s)Prayati Shipping (2009–2010)
Port of RegistryNorway (1980–2010)
Ship BuildersSumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan
IdentificationCall Sign: S6AV7
DNV ID: 16864
IMO Number: 7381154
MMSI No.: 564687016
TypeCrude Oil Tanker
Tonnage260,941 GT (Gross Tonnage)
214,793 NT (Net Tonnage)
564,763 DWT (Dead-Weight Tonnage)
Displacement81,879 long tons light load
646,642 long tons full load
Length458.45 meter (1,504.10 feet)
Beam68.6 meter (225.07 feet)
Draft24.611 meter (80.74 feet)
Depth29.8 meter (97.77 feet)
Propulsion2 Mitsubishi V2M8 boilers (Designed by Combustion Engineering)
Sumitomo Stal-Laval AP Steam Turbine 50,000 HP
Speed16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph)
Capacity4.1 million barrels
Data Sourced From WikiPedia

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