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The position of the Duesseldorf Express, outside Valencia, on June 9


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship was waiting outside of the port of Valencia this morning, after a two-day trip from Tangier, Morocco.

The ship is carrying a container with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL in it, en route from Los Angeles to Genoa, Italy. It’s scheduled to be a trip that takes about 31 days. The ship is due to arrive in Genoa by June 14.

I’ve been to Valencia once. It’s a lovely city, with classical architecture, sited along turquoise shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Traveling by road from Barcelona to Valencia was memorable for its scenery, as well as for the number of whores that line the main road. In rural sections, they set battered plastic lawn chairs along the roadway, to let travelers know they are at the ready. They service their clients, right along the roadway. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Shocking.

I suppose it has something to do with Spain’s “austerity” program, which has wrecked the country’s economy (sort of like how austerity has trashed every other European economy that has tried it) and thrown so many young people out of work. But Spain seems to have more whores than the other austere nations. That’s just a subjective judgment; I have no data (or personal experience) to back it up. It’s tragic to see, in an otherwise impressive country.

Sorry for the digression.

From Valencia, it’s on to Cagliari on the southern end of the island of Sardinia. Be forewarned: I have digressions to relate about that glorious island as well.

Jerry Garrett

June 9, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 7, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 26 Tangier, Morocco

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The Duesseldorf Express (red box) approaches Tangier

TANGIER, Morocco

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, carrying my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL to a rendezvous with me in Genoa, Italy next week, headed into the Moroccan port of Tangier today at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship just spent the previous evening in Lisbon, Portugal refueling after a 3,500-mile crossing of the Atlantic Ocean that took 10 days (from the Dominican Republic). My Mercedes was picked up in Los Angeles on May 13, and has been enjoying (as much enjoyment as can be had inside a shipping container) a trip down the coast of Mexico, a Panama Canal crossing, a Caribbean cruise and trans-Atlantic crossing. Soon it will be transitioning into a four-stop tour of the western Caribbean, before it gets to Genoa on late on June 13. The whole trip is in excess of 5,600 miles.

It seems to have been an uneventful cruise for the most part, with the ship arriving slightly ahead of schedule for most ports since it left Manzanillo, Mexico.

The ship won’t be in Tangier long; it is scheduled to leave tomorrow.


The port in Tangier

The port there isn’t very exciting; I got stranded there for several hours (a couple of years back) when I missed the ferry back to Tarifa, Spain. That ferry ride to Morocco was one of those bucket list things (that probably didn’t need to be on the list, frankly, as it turned out).

A slight digression: We stayed one night in the ancient Hotel Continental overlooking the harbor from the edge of the medina. It was supposedly the oldest tourist hotel in town, dating back to the 1880s or so. Terribly run-down and seedy. But also ornate and fascinating, with curious relics littered everywhere. No one seemed to know its history.

Over the reception desk hung an original oil portrait of someone that I thought I recognized.

“Is that Colonel Lawrence?” I asked the clerk.

“Yes, it is, sir,” he answered.

“Why it is here?”

“It was my understanding he was a frequent guest here, sir.”


img_3746Col. T.E. Lawrence – perhaps you know him better as “Lawrence of Arabia” – officially died in 1935 at age 46 in a motorcycle accident in England, after a long, colorful military career as a British operative in the Middle East. Yet, stories persist of sightings of Lawrence for many years after that in places such as north Africa – particularly in Tangier. The stories had Lawrence living a rather decadent lifestyle for the time in Tangier, which was known then as a destination for like-minded individuals, before disappearing during World War II.

Nothing has ever been proven about these allegations (unusually detailed, I might add) but the stories have been widely published.

Oh if that portrait could have talked. I took a photo of it, or I wouldn’t have believed I actually saw it, after these many years; I posted it above. No, he doesn’t look much like Peter O’Toole.

Anyway, so much for exotic Tangier, and my unsolved mystery encountered there.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Valencia, Spain.

Jerry Garrett

June 7, 2017




Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 4, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Land Ho!

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Red box indicates location of the Duesseldorf Express on June 4 (Vesselfinder)


Exciting news!

The container ship carrying my Mercedes 450 SL to Italy has just entered European waters.

The ship, the Duesseldorf Express, has been off the standard tracking devices for nearly two weeks, since it left Cartagena, Colombia, to cross the Atlantic Ocean en route to Lisbon, Portugal. (I’m certain its owner, Hapag-Lloyd, knew where it was at all times.)

The journey started May 13 in the Port of Los Angeles, where the container with my Mercedes in it was loaded onto the ship. So far, there have been stops in Manzanillo, Mexico; the Panama Canal; Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

The ship is due in Lisbon at 09:00 on Tuesday, but it looks like the 3,500-mile crossing was a speedier one than expected. As I kept track of the weather in Atlantic the past week, conditions seemed absolutely ideal the whole way. (Note: The Atlantic Hurricane season officially started June 1!)

That allays many fears I had about the Mercedes being jostled about too much inside the container during what can often be a tempestuous crossing.

We’ll see tomorrow whether the ship will arrive earlier than expected in Lisbon.

Its schedule calls for stops Wednesday in Tangiers, Friday in Valencia, Spain; Sunday in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia; Monday in Livorno, on Italy’s Tuscan coast, before arriving in Genoa the next day.

That’s where I hope to a) locate it, b) clear it to leave the port with me, and c) start it. (It was last started in April.)

It’s a 1973 model, and its a little temperamental after so many years on the road. Like its owner.

Jerry Garrett

June 4, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | June 2, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Hurricane Season

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The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship is now more than halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, on a 3,500-mile route from Caucedo, Dominica, to Lisbon, Portugal.

This is the ship with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL in a container on board, en route from Los Angeles to me in Italy.Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.41.08 AM

And yes, dear readers, thanks for pointing out that the 2017 Hurricane Season officially began June 1.

Fortunately, there are no storms firing up in the tropical convergence zone. So it looks like a smooth crossing for the Duesseldorf Express.

How lucky is that? I don’t know, but I’ve done three trans-Atlantic cruises in recent years, and on all three, the ships I was on encountered Category 7 storms.

On one trip, on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II, we veered north to miss a hurricane – only to have the hurricane veer unexpectedly north too – right into our path; that was a rugged 24-hours. Dishes shattered, displays fell, the outside areas were closed off.

On a Royal Caribbean ship (can’t remember if it was Monarch of the Seas, or Majesty of the Seas – I’ve been on both) took a wave over Deck 11.

On the third, the Norwegian Epic, we were battered for 36 hours, with waves often up to the lifeboats. We saw scores of passengers with bruises, bandages and casts the morning after the worst night of it.

“Even I was worried,” our captain said.

Barring any unforeseen weather or other delays, the Duesseldorf Express is due in Lisbon early Tuesday, June 6. From there, it makes stops in Tangiers, Valencia, Cagliari and Livorno before finally arriving in Genoa, late June 13.

It will have been more than two months since I waved goodbye to the Mercedes, as it left my driveway. I wonder if it will still start?

Jerry Garrett

June 2, 2017



Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.41.08 AMCAUCEDO, Dominican Republic

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship left here Sunday at 7:30 a.m., bound for its next stop, in Lisbon, Portugal.

It is scheduled to arrive there Tuesday morning, June 6, after a voyage of about 3,500 miles.

That’s an average of about 325 miles a day.

To put that in perspective, imagine driving from, say, San Diego to Bangor, Maine – by way of Miami – at an average speed of 14 m.p.h.

I’ve been tracking the Duesseldorf Express, one of about 200 ships operated by the Hapag-Lloyd line, since it left the port of Los Angeles on May 13. That’s where it had loaded a container, with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL inside, for a month-long voyage to Genoa, Italy.

I like to think of my Mercedes as being on a trans-Atlantic cruise right now.

Consider this, though: The Mercedes is just returning to from whence it came – almost 45 years ago. And by the same manner of transport: A cargo ship. It was manufactured at the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen, Germany (“West Germany” back then). And then shipped to the United States. (I don’t know what port it left from, or arrived at – but if readers know, please leave a comment!)

Somehow, mine has still the European headlights (not the American-market quads).

This may be an unexpected stroke of good luck, because I might have had to convert the car back to European specifications, to get it through customs. (A friend of mine said she imported a Thunderbird to France a few years back, and she was forced to outfit it with “European-spec taillights”, for whatever reason. That was costly, she said, as well as “stupid-looking.”)

Actually, I’m led to believe the Mercedes is old enough now, so as to be exempt from most modern regulations, on lighting, emissions, fuel economy and (ominously) safety.

In all, the Mercedes’ voyage from LA to Italy will comprise at least 5,600 miles – probably more, since the ship will be traveling a rather circuitous route through the Mediterranean Sea, around various islands.

Genoa’s Voltri port is where I hope to claim it, so I can start driving it around southern Europe for the next few months. This is a developing story that still has a lot of loose ends, to say the least. I don’t know if the thing will start – it will have been two months since I parted ways with it – or if I can get it to my rental apartment (which is about 100 miles away from the port where it will be unloaded). Or if I will be able to afford $6+ a gallon Italian gas, in a car that gets 11 m.p.g., if I am lucky.

I will need to stop once for gas, before I can even get it home!

Jerry Garrett

May 30, 2017




Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 28, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Days 15, 16 Dominica

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Screen shot of live webcam at port of Caucedo, early May 28; ship is parked at docks, back by those sets of bright lights.


CAUCEDO, Dominican Republic

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, carrying a container with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL en route to Italy, arrived in port here just before midnight last night.

It had just completed a two-day leg of its journey from Cartagena, Colombia, along the Colombian coast, out into the Caribbean Sea to Dominica. The part of the journey my Mercedes has been on started May 13 at the port of Los Angeles, continued down the Mexican and Central American coast to the Panama Canal, and on to Cartagena after transiting the canal.

After unloading some cargo, and loading new cargo here – not to mention all the fuel it can hold – the ship will be prepped for its departure at 13:00 Sunday – for a long, long journey to Lisbon, Portugal, its next port of call. It should take about 10 sea days to get there.

These are the dog days of a journey like this, as I can attest from a couple of trans-Atlantic crossings. The days pass slowly. No land is in sight. Seldom are other ships seen. You often don’t even see jet trails in the skies. Crossing straight across the Atlantic is something jetliners don’t often do; they generally stick to more northerly (or southerly) routes that cross closer to possible landing sites.

I’ll post tomorrow, with confirmation that the ship left Caucedo, and to reconfirm the latest schedule. Then I may take a few days off (plus, I’m traveling*), to wait until there is something new to report, closer to Portugal.

Jerry Garrett

May 28, 2017

*Covering the Indy 500

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 26, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 14 Caribbean Cruisin’

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As my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, loaded inside a container bound for Italy, left here early today onboard the Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, I was struck by what a big adventure this car is on. Too bad it is locked inside a windowless container.

I mean, it sort of reminds me of the story many years ago of the Midwest couple whose pink plastic lawn flamingoes were “kidnapped” and went on a worldwide odyssey. The “kidnappers” would mail the couple postcards of the flamingoes in assorted exotic locations, with no explanation (and no ransom notes). After a couple of years, the flamingoes turned back up in the couple’s yard again. Again, with no explanation.

My Mercedes is on the same kind of journey, as I track it from the port of Los Angeles where it was picked up and loaded on the Duesseldorf Express; to Manzanillo, Mexico; to the Panama Canal; to Cartagena, and now cruising the Caribbean Sea to Caucedo in the Dominican Republic. After that it’s across the Atlantic to Lisbon, then Morocco, Spain, Sardinia, etc. The itinerary is pretty interesting, and educational for me to follow vicariously, because I’ve only been a handful of those places myself. – although I have done two trans-Atlantic crossings.

And the cargo ship experience itself is a whole new world. I was looking on the Hapag-Lloyd website, to see if I could get any new information on the Duesseldorf Express (I couldn’t), but at one point I was asked, “Are you interested in a career onboard?”

Actually, no. It seems like a hard life. On the move 24/7; seldom in sight of land, long days of seemingly endless seas. Interesting to think about, but not for me.

I hope my Mercedes is enjoying it, though.

Jerry Garrett

May 26, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 25, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 13 Caribbean Cruisin’

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The port in Cartagena handles the largest container ships in the Caribbean.


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, which is carrying a container with my 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL, pulled into the breathtakingly beautiful port of Cartagena this morning, after short hop from Colon, Panama, where it spent the day before.

The Duesseldorf Express, which picked up the Mercedes at the port in Los Angeles on May 13, is due in Genoa, Italy by June 14; that’s where I am planning to retrieve my Mercedes from the container, so I can drive it around Italy and France for the next few months.

I learned that the Mercedes is loaded inside a ZIM container, which has fairly distinctive markings.

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Somebody on YouTube uploaded this photo-shopped image of a ZIM container living the high life in the Caribbean. I have no idea why. But this shot seemed apropos here.

As I watched on the Gatun Locks webcam Wednesday, as the Duesseldorf Express did its transit, I actually noticed a ZIM container loaded mid-ship (I guess mariners say “amidship”) on the starboard side of the main deck. I know the Duesseldorf Express has a capacity of 4,600+ TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units of containers), and spotting the container carrying my Mercedes is a long-shot, at best. But that was the only container that said ZIM on the side. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch a screen shot of if in the best location. But it can been seen in a stack of four rusty red 40-foot containers, right above the “d” in “Hapag-Lloyd”. It is one up from the bottom, third down from the top (right under the “5” in the 11:54:44 time stamp, you can see the white ZIM logo – I know it’s just a dot, really, in this shot).

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But I will believe this is the container in which my Mercedes is loaded – until someone can prove to me that it is not!

The Duesseldorf Express was scheduled to spend just a few hours in Cartagena, before setting out on a course to the port in Caucedo, in the Dominican Republic, before beginning its long, long journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The Caucedo port boasts a “working” webcam. So maybe I’ll get another glimpse of the ship, and my car, when it arrives in a couple of days.

Jerry Garrett

May 25, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 24, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 12 Transiting Panama!

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The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship in the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal

COLON, Panama

The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship spent the night in port here, after a 12-hour transit of the Panama Canal. The ship is stopping over en route from Los Angeles to Genoa, Italy, with my old Mercedes in a container onboard.

The ship arrived a bit ahead of schedule early Tuesday, waited for its turn in line, and then made the 77-kilometer (48-mile) canal journey without a hitch.

The canal authority operates webcams at the Centennial Bridge and Miraflores and Gatun locks. So I knew it might be possible to actually see this ship, that for 11 days has been nothing but a blip on the tracking screens until now. The bridge and Miraflores cameras wouldn’t load, so I didn’t catch it until the final locks – at Gatun.

It was fascinating to watch the 930-foot-long ship be guided by tugs, and pulled by teams of locomotives on tracks alongside the locks. Once inside the first lock, the gates closed behind it, the water level was lowered and then the front gates opened, and the Duesseldorf Express was pulled into the next set of locks. They closed off, that lock was drained, the forward gates opened, and the ship pulled out and into the lake that empties into the Atlantic. The locks lowered the ship a good 30 feet from the level of the man-made Gatun Lake in the center of Panama. The Miraflores locks on the Pacific side of Panama had raised the ship up to the level of Gatun Lake.

(There are differences of a few feet in sea levels of the Pacific and Atlantic, on either side of Panama; but the real differences that the locks and Gatun Lake mitigate, are the variances in the tides – 20+ feet in the Pacific, just three feet in the Atlantic.)

When the ship was passing the town of Gamboa, along the shores of Gatun Lake, I remembered about 10 years ago when my daughter April and I happened to be kayaking in that area. Some insignificant piece of camera equipment fell overboard. I could see it in the clear waters, but couldn’t reach it. So I jumped in, to try and retrieve it. I couldn’t reach it either, so April splashed in too. We never did get it, but it seemed fun to be swimming in the Panama Canal – a body of water that never occurred to me to have any recreational use. I wondered why.

Our guide paddled over and said, “You ought to get out of there.”

“Yeah?” I said. “The water’s actually cool and refreshing.”

“This lake,” he said, gesturing with his free hand, “is infested with caimans.”

Caimans, if you don’t know, are an “alligatorid crocodilian” species. Their proliferation in this man-made lake is an unintended consequence of its artificial creation; the fresh water lake provides a perfect breeding habitat for them.


What “Infested with caimans” means

No wonder nobody swims in it. We were back in our kayak quickly.

Also leaving quickly, after overnighting at the docks in Colon, is the Duesseldorf Express. It was due to leave port in the early hours of Wednesday, to begin a day-long journey to its next stop, which is in Cartegena, Colombia.

Tomorrow, I will divulge some possibility interesting observations as to the exact whereabouts of my 450 SL on the Duesseldorf Express.

Jerry Garrett

May 24, 2017




Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 23, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 11 Panama!

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The Duesseldorf Express arrived at the Panama Canal early May 23.


The Duesseldorf Express cargo ship, with my 1973 Mercedes 450 SL loaded on it bound for Italy, finally showed back up on tracking screens early this morning, in the queue to pass through the Panama Canal.

The ship really hadn’t been seen on tracking screens for nearly nine days! That’s when it passed out of range, a couple hundred miles south of Ensenada, Mexico. It had one stop en route, in Manzanillo, Mexico, where it reportedly arrived behind schedule for whatever reason, and left the next day even farther behind schedule. But those were just log entries, and not tracking data.

The Duesseldorf Express was due in Panama today, however, so it appears any lost time on the 1,400 nautical mile leg from Manzanillo has been more than made up. It was scheduled to dock at Manzanillo terminal here (confusing both ports have the same name!) at 18:00 UTC today, presumably to fuel up before entering the canal zone. It is scheduled to go out again tomorrow at 05:00 UTC (that would actually be before midnight today, Panama time) toward Cartagena, Colombia, its next stop.

The Duesseldorf Express is still on pace to arrive as promised in Genoa, Italy, by June 14. That’s where I plan to pick it up, and begin enjoying driving it.

During its brief stay in Panama, however, I hope to catch a glimpse of it on one of the many webcams that monitor canal activity.

Jerry Garrett

May 23, 2017


Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 22, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 10


No word yet as to the actual whereabouts of the Duesseldorf Express container ship, which is headed toward the Panama Canal, with my 1973 Mercedes 450 SL aboard.

The ship is coming from Manzanillo, Mexico, to Manzanillo, Panama, which is more than a bit confusing. The ship loaded my Mercedes at the port in Los Angeles back on May 13; it should arrive in Genoa, Italy on or about June 13. That’s where I hope to take delivery.

The Manzanillo-Manzanillo route is a fairly lonely one, it seems. Keeping track of a cargo ship along that route is very difficult. Officially, the Duesseldorf Express hasn’t been pinging radars since May 14, a hundred miles south of Ensenada, Baja California.

The ship is scheduled in Panama’s Manzanillo tomorrow at 18:00 UTC ( says 23:00 at Puerto Colon).

I estimate it is somewhere off the coast of Nicaragua tonight as I write this. Hopefully, there will be solid information tomorrow. Because, as Scarlett O’Hara once said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Whatever that means.

Jerry Garrett

May 22, 2017



Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 21, 2017

Driving My Mercedes To Italy – Day 9


The World’s Largest Container Ship (Shipspotting)


While we await the arrival here Tuesday, May 23, of the Duesseldorf Express cargo carrier, with my old Mercedes onboard en route from California to Italy, let’s have a trivia test.

So, what’s the biggest container ship in the world?

What a timely question!

The answer has changed three times in the last month!

Since 2015, it had been the behemoth Barzan, with a 19,870 TEU capacity, according to Alphaliner (credit them for the graphic below too). Then, in March, the MOL Triumph broke the 20k TEU barrier when its 20,170 TEU capacity was christened. In April, the 20,568 TEU Madrid Maersk went into service.

But as of last week, the new “King of Containerland” is the OOCL Hong Kong. It is owned by the Orient Overseas Container Line, Ltd., of Hong Kong, and it was just built by Samsung (that company seems to have its fingers in every pie, doesn’t it?).

The Hong Kong, at 21,413 TEUs, blew them all away. And OOCL supposedly has an order for six such ships. Other shipyards are building as many of these 400-meter behemoths, as fast they can.

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Next question: What are TEUs?

They are “twenty-foot equivalent units” or an inexact measurement unit for cargo capacity, often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals. Everyone in the industry uses it, so measurements are all relative.

But imagine 21,143 20-foot shipping containers loaded on one ship! It’s like 24 bays, stacked 38 rows deep, by 24 rows wide! Hope my Mercedes is not on the bottom of a pile like that!

Most shipping containers are not 20-footers, however; they’re actually all sizes (like life-size stackable Legos), the most common of which – check me on this, maritime buffs – is the 40-footer. (Want one? You can easily buy one; eBay has them for less than $2,000.) So, I think it’s safe to calculate the OOCL Hong Kong could easily fit, say, 10,000 of these ubiquitous 40-foot containers!

In fact my old Mercedes 450 SL, which at 15.5 feet in length could actually fit inside a 20-footer, has an HC-40 all to itself on the Duesseldorf Express. HC refers to “High Cube” which means it’s 9 feet, 6 inches tall – about a foot taller than a standard cube. (Exact HC-40 measurement, according to the Hapag-Lloyd shipping line which owns the DE, is about six inches shorter than 40 feet, and about 7 feet, 8 inches inches wide. The Mercedes fits inside with about a foot to spare on either side.

How big is the Duesseldorf Express, compared to the OOCL Hong Kong? A fraction of the size. At 930 feet, it is about 400 feet shorter. The DE also has a capacity of “only” 4,612 TEUs – which still seems like kind of a lot. (Still hard to imagine my containerized Mercedes as just one of 2,000+ containers on that ship!)

But here’s the deal: The Duesseldorf Express will fit through the Panama Canal.

The OOCL Hong Kong and its ilk, despite the recent Panamax canal expansion, will not.

Jerry Garrett

May 21, 2017

According to the Hellenic Shipping News, “The 21,413 teu OOCL HONG KONG, delivered last week by Samsung Heavy Industries, has taken the crown for the largest containership ever built, based on advertised nominal container intake.

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