Giant Possibilities

The largest ship ever built is about to become history. Fred Olsen’s Knock Nevis – aka Jahre Viking, Seawise Giant and Happy Giant – was built by Sumitomo Heavy Industries and delivered in 1981. This titan measures more than 1,500 ft., in length and 221 ft. at its beam.

Fred Olsen acquired the vessel in 2004 but because its size limited its operational capabilities it has been used for Floating & Storage Operations for Qatar’s Al Shaheen oil field.

We’ve just learned, however, that Knock Nevis is now the property of an Indonesian bunkering firm and will be scrapped in India. We may never again see such a vessel.

This announcement, and the headline stating that, “Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. yard gets Japan’s largest goliath crane”– a 1,200-ton lifting capacity unit – reminds us that, while that new crane may be the largest in Japan, the Daewoo Heavy Industries yard in Rumania will soon be installing the 1,200-ton “Goliath” that was an historic South Shore landmark for so many years at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass.

Fore River built 10 massive LNG vessels in the 70s and 80s, and the “Goliath” was built specifically to lift and position the vessels’ characteristic aluminum spheres. So Quincy’s landmark – its spectacular Goliath – is also just a memory.

Other Fore River memories? How about the Thomas W. Lawson? The only seven-masted schooner ever built.

Or the most powerful heavy cruisers that ever sailed the seven seas? The eight Baltimore-class, the three Oregon City-class (four, in fact, if you count the converted CLC-1 USS Northampton), and two of the three Salem-class cruisers. The rapid-firing 8-inch gun Salems were called machine gun cruisers. Devastating.

The USS Salem (CA-139), by the way, is docked as a memorial at the Fore River, and the Quincy-built “Big Mamie”, the USS Massachusetts (BB-59), is a memorial in Fall River, Mass.

For the record – the real record – the longest battleship ever to see service is also American-made. The USS Wisconsin exceeded the Yamato’s great length when the bow of the unfinished Kentucky was added to the Wisconsin in order to repair collision damage.

And for the record, even though hundreds of giant vessels have been built in overseas shipyards in recent years, no country will ever match the shipbuilding efforts of U.S. workers during the critical Great Depression and WW2 years.

It’s even more critical today but we have no leadership. Our nation is about to founder and only an Emergency Shipbuilding Program can avert the unthinkable. There is no other escape route.