LONDON – Groaning with gifts and larger than any sleigh, the world's biggest container ship docked in Britain Saturday on a maiden voyage to deliver thousands of tons of Christmas presents, decorations and food across the globe.
The MS Emma Maersk, which weighs 190,400 tons, set sail from Gothenburg, Sweden, in September, collecting and delivering festive supplies in Yantian, China, Hong Kong and Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia.
Operated by a crew of 13, the vessel is the largest at sea — a quarter-mile long, 200 feet high and powered by the biggest diesel engine ever built.
Among goods packed into 11,000 containers are 2 million Christmas decorations, 12,800 MP3 players, 33,000 cocktail shakers, 168 tons of New Zealand lamb, thousands of frozen chickens and 138,000 cans of cat food, said the owner, Danish shipping company Maersk Line.
Around 50,400 tons of goods were due to be unloaded Saturday at Felixstowe port, in southern England, before the ship sails to mainland Europe to deliver 8,000 containers of cargo.
The voyage is the ship's first from China to Europe and was specifically planned to deliver Christmas stocks to shopkeepers — including a haul of electronic dinosaurs, radio-controlled cars, pinball machines and computers.
Maersk Line said the ship could travel about 200,000 miles every year — the equivalent of seven and a half trips around the world.
Most of the goods have been produced in China, which last year exported $30.5 billion worth of goods to Britain, said Caroline Lucas, a European Parliament legislator with Britain's environmentalist Green Party.
That should make Britons think twice, Lucas said. "People should see the ship as a little microcosm of all the major problems with world trade."
"The thousands of tons of goods being delivered are items which once would have been produced in Britain and Europe, but which are now made in China, where exploitation of the labor market means we cannot compete on price," Lucas told The Associated Press.
The ship's two-month voyage also highlighted concerns about the environmental impact of transporting goods and food long distances, she said.