History of the Seawise Giant world’s largest ship revealed

  • The Seawise Giant was so vast she couldn’t navigate the English Channel and took five miles to slow to a halt 
  • Weighing more than 564,000 tonnes and measuring 1,500ft in length, she was the largest ship ever built
  • She was bombed and sank in 1988, but was heaved from the seabed a year later and repaired
  • The Seawise Giant changed hands six times in total, and served 21 more years after being resurrected 
  • She was finally broken down for scrap at an Indian shipyard in 2010, a task that took thousands of laborers

It was nearly twice the length of the Titanic – and its lesser-known history is no less epic.

The Seawise Giant, a Japanese-built supertanker completed in 1979, changed hands – and was renamed – six times during its 30-year service before finally being sold for scrap in India in 2009.

Weighing more than 564,000 tonnes and measuring 1,500ft in length, it was far too large to navigate the English Channel, and so mighty that even after being sunk by Saddam Hussain’s missiles during the Iran-Iraq war of 1988 and declared a total write-off, she served 21 more years, her massive hulk dragged from the seabed and renovated.

The Seawise Giant (pictured), a Japanese-built supertanker completed in 1979, changed hands - and was renamed - six times during its 30-year service before finally being sold for scrap in India in 2009

The Seawise Giant (pictured), a Japanese-built supertanker completed in 1979, changed hands – and was renamed – six times during its 30-year service before finally being sold for scrap in India in 2009

The Seawise Giant was completed in 1979 by a shipyard in Kanagawa, Japan. 

The Greek shipping magnate who originally ordered it refused to take delivery by the time it was finished, and it was subsequently sold to the Chinese founder of Hong Kong Orient Overseas Container Line, C.Y. Tung – with the purpose of transporting oil across the ocean.

Not quite satisfied with its already massive size, Tung had it extended by several feet and added more than 100,000 tonnes to its capacity before it went into service. 

By this stage, the rudder alone weighed 230 tonnes – the equivalent of 46 elephants – the propeller 50 tonnes, and the ship itself weighed more than 657,000 tonnes when fully-loaded – making it the largest ship of its kind ever made.

Weighing more than 564,000 tonnes and measuring 1,500ft in length, it was far too large to navigate the English Channel. Pictured here is the ship after she was renamed the 'Jahre Viking'

Weighing more than 564,000 tonnes and measuring 1,500ft in length, it was far too large to navigate the English Channel. Pictured here is the ship after she was renamed the ‘Jahre Viking’

She was sunk by Saddam Hussain's missiles during the Iraq war of 1988 (pictured) and declared a total write-off

But after a year, she was dragged from the seabed and resurrected to serve 21 more years

She was so mighty that even after being sunk by Saddam Hussain’s missiles during the Iraq war of 1988 (pictured) and declared a write-off, she was dragged from the seabed and resurrected to serve 21 more years

The rudder alone weighed 230 tonnes - the equivalent of 46 elephants - the propeller 50 tonnes, and the ship itself weighed more than 657,000 tonnes when fully-loaded - making it the largest ship of its kind ever made

The rudder alone weighed 230 tonnes – the equivalent of 46 elephants – the propeller 50 tonnes, and the ship itself weighed more than 657,000 tonnes when fully-loaded – making it the largest ship of its kind ever made

The Seawise Giant spent the next years ferrying huge quantities of crude oil between the Middle East and the US. 

But in May 1988, disaster struck during the Iran-Iraq War. 

While anchored off Iran’s Larak Island in shallow waters, carrying Iranian oil, the Seawise Giant was targeted and hit by Iraqi parachute bombs. She lit up like a match as fire tore across her, and she ultimately sank. Her owners declared her a write-off.

But that’s not where the story ends. 

After the war ended in 1989, the Seawise Giant was heaved from the seabed after a year of decay by Norwegian conglomerate Norman International.

The wreck was transported to Singapore for extensive repairs and her owners re-named her the Happy Giant.

With a length of 1,500ft and at 225-ft wide, her two-mile turning circle was vast, and it took her more than five miles to grind to a halt from her full speed of 16.5 knots

With a length of 1,500ft and at 225ft wide, her two-mile turning circle was vast, and it took her more than five miles to grind to a halt from her full speed of 16.5 knots

in 2004, the ship was purchased by Norway's First Olsen Tankers, renamed Knock Nevis, and converted into a stationary storage unit for oil tankers, moored in the Persian Gulf's Qatar Al Shaheen oil field

in 2004, the ship was purchased by Norway’s First Olsen Tankers, renamed Knock Nevis, and converted into a stationary storage unit for oil tankers and moored in the Persian Gulf’s Qatar Al Shaheen oil field

Norweigan mogul Jorgen Jahre then purchased the patched-up ship for $39million (£30million), renamed it the Jahre Viking, and re-entered her into service in October 1991. 

Over time, however, her gargantuan size became more and more of a burden in terms of practicality. She was too long and wide to navigate waters that weren’t deep enough – among them the English Channel, Egypt’s Suez Canal and the Panama Canal.

With a length of 1,500ft and at 225-ft wide, her two-mile turning circle was vast, and it took her more than five miles to grind to a halt from her full speed of 16.5 knots. 

Captain Surrinder Kumar Mohan, who commanded the ship while it was the Jahre Viking, told Turbine Tanker at the time: ‘To my great regret, I do not think another vessel of the size of Jahre Viking will ever be built. It’s not financially viable.’ 

Over time, however, her gargantuan size became more and more of a burden in terms of practicality. She was too long and wide to navigate waters that weren't deep enough - among them Egypt's Suez Canal and the Panama Canal

Over time, however, her gargantuan size became more and more of a burden in terms of practicality. She was too long and wide to navigate waters that weren’t deep enough – among them Egypt’s Suez Canal and the Panama Canal

The ship, pictured here as the Jahre Viking, was finally sold for scrap in 2010, and renamed (once again) as the Mont for her final journey to an Indian ship-breaking yard. It took tens of thousands of laborers to complete the task of stripping it apart

The ship, pictured here as the Jahre Viking, was finally sold for scrap in 2010, and renamed (once again) as the Mont for her final journey to an Indian ship-breaking yard. It took tens of thousands of laborers to complete the task of stripping it apart

So in 2004, the ship was purchased by Norway’s First Olsen Tankers, renamed Knock Nevis, converted into a stationary storage unit for oil tankers and moored in the Persian Gulf’s Qatar Al Shaheen oil field. 

There she lived out the rest of her days before finally being sold for scrap in 2010, and renamed (once again) as the Mont for her final journey to an Indian ship-breaking yard.

It took tens of thousands of laborers to complete the task of stripping it apart. 

Only its 36-tonne anchor was saved, where it now resides at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum – the last remaining relic of a truly legendary ocean beast. 





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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