The Eleonora Maersk, is designed to carry one of the worldâ€™s largest payloads with only 19 crew on board. It can be run with as few as 13 people but with extras and cadets, it carries around 24.
The vessel is specifically designed to ply the worldâ€™s most important trade route, the Asia-Europe run: this is now (euro-area debt crisis notwithstanding) the main artery of globalisation. Having started its homeward-bound voyage in South Korea and having picked up most of its cargo in Shanghai, the Eleonora is due to dock in Rotterdam in a couple of weeksâ€™ time. I joined the vessel on October 26th at the container terminal of Yantian, the port of Shenzhen, just inside mainland China north of Hong Kong. I will disembark on October 30th when we reach another massive port, on the southern tip of Malaysia, just north of Singapore. Even if I wanted to stay on board for the next leg, non-stop to Europe, I wouldnâ€™t get very far. As was explained to me in â€œthe citadelâ€, a secure room in the bowels of the ship where everyone has to gather in the event of a boarding by pirates, no guests or even family are allowed on Maersk vessels past Sri Lanka, because of the threat from Somalia. In truth however, this ship is just too big (and fast) for pirates to grapple with.
I know the comparison isnâ€™t fair but compare the Eleonora Maersk crew with the crew required to sail the U.S.S. Nimitz at 3200 people. Itâ€™s amazing.