CMA CGM Marco Polo

CMA CGM Marco Polo container ship belongs to the Explorer class CMA CGM ships. They are all large cargo ships, all named after famous world explorers. The first 5 in this group of CMA CGM vessels are 1198 ft / 365 m long (capacity 13,300 TEU*), while the last 3 are bigger (1299 ft / 396 m long, capacity 16,020 TEU. They were the largest container ships in the world – right until the arrival of the Maersk Line’s Triple E Class vessels (1309 ft / 399 m, capacity 18,270 TEU).

In November 2012, CMA CGM Marco Polo became the world’s largest container vessel by TEU capacity (16,020), surpassing the Mærsk’s E-class vessels (Emma Mærsk, along with her 7 sisters, each with capacity 10,000 TEU) if fully loaded with 14t cargo containers.

*Note:TEU is an abbreviation for “twenty-foot equivalent unit” used for containers.

CMA CGM Marco Polo ship

CMA CGM Marco Polo position tracking

Right in the very beginning of this review, see where is the Marco Polo cargo ship today – and right now!


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CMA CGM Marco Polo Wiki

Being one of the largest cargo ships that flies the French line’s red ensign, CMA CGM Marco Polo can carry so many containers, that if lined they would make a 97 km / 60 ml long line. A report by ABP (the UK’s leading ports group) says that about 9% of everything that comes in or out of Britain comes through the port of Southampton. In particular, the Far East trade is concentrated in Southampton. And because both shipping containers and the cargo ships get bigger and bigger every year, the Southampton port must get larger too. To make room for the new mega huge marine vessels (both cargo and cruise ships of the new generation), a new terminal is being built. The VTS port authority was given permission to dredge nearly half a million cubic meters of mud between the new terminal and Marchwood (Hampshire) to widen the channel.

  • The ship began its 77-day maiden voyage on November 7, 2012, leaving from port Ningbo, China. It joined the rest of the CMA CGM fleet on the FAL1 route (French Asian Line 1) China-Europe and back.
  • Naming ceremony was held in Okpo (Korea) on November 12.
  • After covering 20,000 nautical miles on this journey, the voyage ended on January 24, 2013.

A number of records were set during the first turnaround of Marco Polo:

  • From Le Havre (France), the ship left with a record 163,464-ton load.
  • During the Khor Fakkan port call, a productivity record was achieved of approx 223 movements per hour, for a total of 6,922 moves.
  • A record for the biggest container load ever made by CMA CGM ship (14,398 TEUs) was set when the vessel left Port Klang (Malaysia).

Since Feb 2013, the container vessel offers cargo cruises with 5 double-occupancy passenger cabins.

CMA CGM Marco Polo ship details (statistics, specifications)

The vessel was constructed in parts. Each 2000-ton section was lifted by floating cranes and drydock assembled. On November 5, 2012, the boxship was delivered to CMA CGM as the first of the line’s Explorer-class vessels – all named after great explorers. Next were launched Jules Verne and Alexander von Humboldt. These three CMA CGM ships were the fleet’s biggest, until the 2015’s arrival of Kerguelen (18000 TEUs) and the rest ULC boxships (“ultra large containerships”).

  • Owner: SNC Nordenskiold
  • Operator: CMA CGM Group – based in Marseille and registered in London, CMA CGM is the 3rd largest container shipping company in the world)
  • Flag State/Registry: UK (London) – she pays taxes
  • Builder: Daewoo Shipbuilding, South Korea
  • Completed 2012 (Nov 5), in service since Nov 6, Maiden voyage 2012 (November 7, length 77 days)
  • IMO number: 9454436
  • MMSI number: 235095231
  • Call sign: 2FYD5
  • Yard number: 4161
  • Gross tonnage is 175,343 GT (overall internal volume) – larger than an US Navy aircraft carrier
  • Net tonnage is 85,361 (NT/total moulded volume of all cargo spaces)
  • Deadweight tonnage is 187,625 (how much weight she can safely carry)
  • Length overall is 396 m (1,299 ft) – longer than 4 football fields, 5,5 Airbus A380s (the world’s largest passenger aircraft) – see this size comparison infographic

CMA CGM Marco Polo size comparison infographic

  • Beam/Width is 53.6 m (175 ft)
  • Max Draught/Draft is 16 m (53 ft)
  • deck edge to keel depth is 30 m (98 ft).
CMA CGM Marco Polo engines

CMA CGM Marco Polo engine
Wartsila RT-flex96C

  • Engines, power, propulsion: Marco Polo ship engines are of the type 11RT96flex-C (SUL design). The ship has 10 wind turbines (power output 14 MW, which is comparable to ~1100 cars with 100 HP/horsepower); 2-stroke diesel engines (Wartsila RT-flex96C, 14-cylinder, power 80080 kW, the installed on the ship version is 11-cylinder); single shaft propulsion with fixed-pitch propellers. The 14-cylinder version is the largest marine diesel engine in the world, installed on the the Maersk’s new E-class container ships. You can read more about the engine at Wartsila.com.

    CMA CGM Marco Polo propulsion propeller

    CMA CGM Marco Polo propulsion (propeller)

  • Maximum speed is 22,5 kn (which is 42 kph, or 26 mph)
  • Max capacity: 16,020 TEU, reefers (refrigerated containers) 1,100 TEU, and all this operated by only 27 crew. On this freighter ship the passenger capacity is 10 guests.
  • Her Captain‘s name is Velibor Krpan (nationality Croatia).
  • See these external links to Wikipedia (the “Container Ship” page there) and to CMA-CGM.com, and this link is for the line’s cargo ships schedules (via search box).

You can see the list of largest container ships in the world at CruiseShipPosition.com.

CMA CGM Marco Polo ship technology

CMA CGM Marco Polo is equally impressive as sheer size, but also as maritime technology. This new generation container ship has a Becker TLKSR (twisted leading edge flap rudder) greatly improving her hydrodynamics, thus reducing total energy consumption. This means lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The following infographic is in restricted size (click to enlarge).CMA CGM Marco Polo ship technology infographic

Marco Polo diesel engines are electronically controlled, which results in an average 3% less fuel consumption, and also ~25% reduction of lubricating oil consumption. The ship’s hull design is also optimized for reducing energy losses, which means further fuel consumption savings.

CMA CGM Marco Polo also has a new generation chemical-free ballast water treatment system for ships, which helps protecting marine ecosystems by limiting the micro-organisms transfer from one ocean to another. The ship’s fuel tanks are protected by a double hull design preventing oil leakage in the event of maritime disaster.

The long list of Marco Polo cargo ship technology features also includes the “Smith Bracket” towing system which facilitates port traffic control allowing even small tug vessels to tow her easily.

CMA CGM cargo shipping containers on Marco Polo

CMA CGM Marco Polo’s containers from the outside might look the same, but they are not. And differences are not just in their sizes and colors. The CMA CGM company is famous with all its eco-friendly new technologies implemented on their cargo ships, and with their so many maritime innovations, including their very own eco-containers. Using these new types of steel cargo shipping containers usually saves from 1 to 2 tons of fuel per a day. And this also means around 3-6 tons of CO2 emissions less in a day.

The new CMA CGM eco-containers types are:

  • Bamboo-flooring (since 2005) – they were first implemented on CMA CGM vessels, to minimize the use of wood, in the same time improving their technical qualities. Today, CMA CGM has ~50,000 bamboo containers, with half of them being of the “Light Steel” type.
  • CMA CGM Marco Polo containers "Light Steel"Light Steel (since 2008) – also first implemented on their vessels. This type shipping containers are made from strong and very resistant steel saving 550 kg cargo tare weight.
  • Low energy reefers: the line has 26,000 reefers (refrigerator containers) equipped with energy efficient motors, which to 3 times reduce the electricity/fuel consumption.
  • Eko-Flor (without floor wood) – instead, floors are made of a synthetic material, which is lighter (saving also ground transportation energy) and also it’s resistant to various products (like water, oil, microbes, etc.).

CMA CGM Marco Polo itinerary

The Marco Polo container vessel with its itinerary links Asia to Europe through the Suez Canal (transit). She is operating this route every 11 weeks. On this itinerary she calls on some of the biggest ports in the world:

CMA CGM Marco Polo itinerary map

  • in China – Ningbo, Shanghai, Xiamen, Hong Kong, Chiwan, Yantian
  • in Malaysia – Port Kelang
  • Egypt (Suez Canal transit)
  • in Morocco – Tanger
  • in UK – Southampton
  • in Germany – Hamburg, and Bremerhaven
  • in Holland – Rotterdam
  • in Belgium – Zeebrugge (port to Brugge)
  • in France – Le Havre (port to Paris)
  • in Mediterranean – Malta
  • the second Suez Canal transit
  • in UAE – Khor Al Fakkan (the UAE’s 2nd largest after Fujairah), and Jebel Ali (to Dubai)
  • again Port Kelang
  • and ending in Ningbo.

Marco Polo vessel’s CMA CGM sisters – Alexander Von Humboldt, and Jules Verne

Alexander Von Humboldt was the second largest cargo ship in the world when launched (christened in Hamburg, Germany, on May 30, 2013). She started her Maiden Voyage on April 19, 2013 leaving from the shipbuilder’s yard in Pusan, South Korea, because this sister was also built by Daewoo Shipbuilding. CMA CGM Alexander Von Humboldt (IMO number 9454448) is just like Marco Polo UK-flagged, and curiously enough, the initial plans were to name her “Vasco de Gama”. Obviously, the opinion to name the world’s second biggest container ship after the father of the modern geography prevailed.

After Marco Polo, Alexander Von Humboldt is the 2nd of the three “16k-TEU” CMA CGM cargo ships series. The 3rd Explore-class ship was delivered in May 2013. Her name is CMA CGM Jules Verne (flag-state France), and she was inaugurated in Marseilles (June 4, 2013).

Marco Polo cargo ship facts about the Maiden Voyage from Europe to Asia

On January 24, 2013, Marco Polo arrived in the port of Ningbo (China), which was the last port according to the schedule. The record facts about this historical voyage are:

  • The Le Havre port (France) was left with a record cargo load of 163464 tons.
  • The Khor Fakkan port stay (UAE) marked a new productivity record – a total of 6922 moves with ~223 movements per hour.
  • The Port Kelang (Malaysia) was left with the biggest cargo load ever made by a CMA CGM vessel – 14,398 TEU.
  • Environmental performance was also stunning – at full cargo load, Marco Polo rejected only 40 gr of CO2 per km per ton transported, which is a reduction of around 12% in comparison to the Christophe Colomb container ship, and 23% reduction in comparison to the modern CMA CGM ships.

The towing exercise

On March 9, 2013, the Marco Polo towing exercise in France was carried out by Abeille Bourbon (French emergency tug vessel, based in Brest). There was a 4-hour cargo service pause for the ship to undergo the towing exercise to confirm the Atlantic maritime prefecture’s rescue capabilities are sufficient to assist very large commercial marine vessels.

Marco Polo was loaded to 80% of her max capacity (weighing over 250000 t), and the Abeille tug did her job perfectly – and only using the half her engines power. She tugged the giant ship for an hour at 10 kph / 6 mph speed.

CMA CGM Marco Polo vessel at YouTube

The mega containership Marco Polo is always carrying a huge number of containers (at almost full capacity). Yet she navigates so easily in ports, so quiet, so majestic – a true giant of the seas!

YouTube video No 1

Video 1 is showing Marco Polo in Southampton UK (Maiden port call on Sunday, December 9, 2012)

YouTube video No 2

Video 2 is an official release by the CMA CGM line, reviewing most of this so famous cargo ship’s innovations and top maritime technologies.

YouTube video No 3

Video 3 is about the containership Marco Polo leaving out of Southampton, England, in 2013 (May 14). Pay special attention to the so easy navigation this mega vessel does in the Southampton port – among all these minor in comparison ships, and also how many containers she is holding (at almost full capacity).

Marco Polo container ship cruise?!

Yep, it’s a well proven fact – even the Marco Polo container ship has the cruising option present. Simply book, pack and embark aboard the CMA CGM’s largest container vessel – on a cruise vacation!CMA CGM Marco Polo container vessel with pilot boat

The CMA CGM shipping line offers container ship cruise deals from a world tour (with numerous ports of call) to simply transiting the Suez Canal, Transatlantic crossing or other of the many port to port options (depending on availability). And this is a restricted number of passengers possibility, featuring spacious passenger staterooms and all the quietness you’ll find on a ship at sea. Just make the time to travel on a CMA CGM cargo ship.

Marco Polo “cargo ship cruise” itinerary

The so huge Marco Polo ship “cruise route” offered by cargo ship cruise agencies usually starts and ends in Europe. As mentioned earlier, she is “cruising” on the Europe-Asia route every 11 weeks. Her itinerary is one of calmest options for the 10 cruise passengers on board to visit and discover some of the world’s biggest ports.

Follows the list of ports of call and the day in which Marco Polo is visiting that particular port:

CMA CGM Marco Polo cruise itinerary map from UK (Southampton round-trip)

  • Embarkation in Southampton UK
  • Germany – Hamburg (day 1), [day 2 at sea], Bremerhaven (day 3), [day 4 at sea]
  • Holland – Rotterdam (day 5)
  • Belgium – Zeebrugge (day 6), [day 7 at sea]
  • France – Le Havre (day 8), [sea days 9-13]
  • Mediterranean – Malta (day 14), [sea days 15 & 16]
  • Suez Canal transit (day 17), [sea days 18-24]
  • UAE – Khor Al Fakkan (day 25), [day 26 at sea], Jebel Ali (day 27), [sea days 29-36]
  • Malaysia – Port Kelang (day 37), [sea days 38-42]
  • China – Ningbo (day 43), [day 44 at sea], Shanghai (day 45), [day 46 & 47 at sea], Xiamen (day 48), Hong Kong (day 49), Chiwan (day 50), Yantian (day 51), [sea days 52, 53 & 54]
  • Back route is to Malaysia – Port Kelang (day 55), [sea days 56-66]
  • Suez Canal transit (day 67), [sea days 68-71]
  • Mediterranean/Morocco – Tanger (day 72), [sea days 73-76]

Disembarkation is in UK – Southampton (day 77), with a total of 60 days at sea to enjoy the cargo ship cruising experience!

Marco Polo cargo cruise prices

The CMA CGM company operates cargo cruises since 2000 on most of its vessels. Their itineraries range from smaller segments (port to port) to Around The World voyages – including from Europe to India with Transatlantic crossing and Panama Canal transiting.

Passenger rooms on CMA CGM Marco Polo are located on the upper deck (named “F”). Their list includes:

  • 1 suite E-718 (size 39 m2 / 420 ft2) has bedroom (twin beds 2×1,2 m), bathroom (with shower), sitting area (3 aft- and 2 side-windows). Suite E-718 prices PP per day (double occupancy) are €140.
  • 1 passenger cabin A-701 (size 33 m2 / 355 ft2) has double bed (2×1,6m), bathroom (shower), sitting area (3 forward- and 2 side-windows). Cabin A-701 prices PP are €110 (double occupancy), €130 (single occupancy), and range from €150 to €180 PP PD on shorter segments.
  • 3 passenger cabins (B-712, C-714, D-716, size is 25 m2 / 270 ft2), each with bedroom (double bed 2×1,6m), private bathroom with shower, sitting area (forward-/aft- and side-windows. Cruise prices on these 3 cabins are like the ones on A-701 (€110 double, €130 single, €150 to €180 on short segments).
  • Note: Forward and aft windows views may be obstructed by cargo containers.

Freighter ship cruise deals on CMA CGM Marco Polo also include as onboard amenities a lounge area with plasma TV, a small library room, a small gym room – not to forget the swimming pool. I would include in this list the unique experience to discover the world’s biggest oceans, so many diverse countries and huge ports, and to share the crew’s mundane routine life. So many days at sea to enjoy reading, writing, or simply having a good time with a specialty drink in your hand.

The Marco Polo ship has also a passenger elevator, but all guests still must be mobile and able to use the stairs.

  • Self service launderettes are also available on board.

  • At the Captain’s office guests can use phone, fax and e-mail (no Internet on the ship).
  • Electrical current is 220V/50.

  • A cabin steward cleans cabins once a week.

    Gratuities are a matter of personal discretion; but US$3 to 5 per day is recommended.

  • Documentation: passengers’ passports must be valid for 6 months minimum (beyond the return date), visas for China and USA are also required (depending on citizenship). Other required documents are: “Freighter Passenger Medical Statement of Good Health”, insurances (“International Health”, “Accident”), yellow fever vac certificate.
  • Passenger age limit is 8 to 80.
  • Stays in ports vary from half a day to 2 days.

A small shop on the Marco Polo ship sells a limited selection of duty-free drinks, tobaccos and toiletries (guests may also pay in cash).

Marco Polo container ship cruise cabins (photo gallery)

See in the below table what the CMA CGM Marco Polo cruise cabins look like (images are in thumbnails – click to enlarge).

1. DeskMarco-Polo-container-ship-cruise-cabin-3 2. BedroomMarco-Polo-container-ship-cruise-cabin-1 3. Lounge AreaMarco-Polo-container-ship-cruise-cabin-5
4. Seating AreaMarco-Polo-container-ship-cruise-cabin-2 5. BathroomMarco-Polo-container-ship-cruise-cabin-4 .

CMA CGM Marco Polo is the container ship that made the maritime news in 2012. And just one of the so many cargo ships that bring our favorite goods from China – each day, every day. The Marco Polo giant ship is truly one of our special times’ sensations – among the first in the list of the world’s mammoth sized ships. And when you think of it, only 30 years ago, a typical container vessel was 4000 TEU in size. Just 10 years ago the size grew to 10000+ TEU. Today they exceed by 60% that capacity. And the simple reason is the global economies of scale – trade expansion, hefty jump in fuel prices, higher operating costs. CMA CGM Marco Polo and the likes exist simply because in our “new age” economy, one huge cargo vessel makes more economic sense to container ship owners/operators than two or more smaller ones. And China is producing more and more, and faster, and cheaper than ever.

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