9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built

Explore the biggest ships ever built and marvel at their impressive size and capabilities. Discover the engineering feats behind these giants of the sea.
Christopher McFadden
  • From massive container ships that transport goods across the oceans to colossal oil tankers that deliver the world's energy supply, the engineering marvels of the largest ships never cease to amaze.
  • These ships have broken records for their size and capacity, with some able to carry up to 20,000 containers or more than 3 million barrels of oil.
  • Join us as we delve into the world of the largest ships ever built and explore the technology and innovation that has made them possible.

The world's largest ships are a testament to human ingenuity and the boundless potential of modern engineering. These behemoths of the sea have pushed the limits of what is possible in terms of size, capacity, and efficiency and have become essential players in global commerce and trade. Join us as we take a closer look at some of the most impressive ships ever constructed, and discover the secrets behind their success.

And who says that size doesn't matter? Well, when it comes to these examples of the world's largest ships, we think you'll believe it does.

1. The Seawise Giant was one of the world's largest ships

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
The Knock Nevis is one of the world's largest ships.

An oil tanker known as the Seawise Giant (formerly Oppama, Happy Giant, Jahre Viking, Knock Nevis, and Mont) was one of the longest and heaviest ships ever built. The Seawise Giant was a ULCC supertanker that was decommissioned in 2009.

The Seawise Giant was the largest, moving man-made object on the planet. Measured from stern to bow, the ship was longer than the Empire State Building's height. The ship spanned 1,504 ft (458.45 meters) and had a staggering gross tonnage of 260,941 gross tonnes (GT) or 214,793 net tonnes).

In case you are unaware, Gross tonnage (GT) and net tonnage (NT) measure a ship's volume, but they are calculated differently and serve different purposes.

Gross tonnage measures the total internal volume of a ship, including all enclosed spaces and structures. On the other hand, a net load is a measure of a ship's cargo-carrying capacity.

Seawise Giant was originally built in 1979 by Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Japan. She was originally named Oppama (for the yard where she was built), but was later sold, lengthened and renamed Seawise Giant. During the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, the ship was severely damaged and sunk in the Strait of Hormuz, but it was recovered and repaired and later returned to active service under the name Happy Giant.

She was later bought by the Norwegian Jorgen Jahre in 1991 and renamed Jahre Viking, where she served for 13 years. Eventually, she was purchased by First Olsen Tankers and renamed the Knock Nevis. She was later purchased by Amber Development and renamed Mont, but was beached and sent to scrappage in 2009.

The 35-crew ship had a cruising speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) and was propelled by a single propeller, 30 ft (9 meters) in diameter. The ship took around 5.5 miles (9 km) to slow down from cruising speed to stand still and had a turning circle of 3 km (~2 miles).

2. TI Class supertankers are truly enormous ships

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
TI Class supertankers are humongous vessels too.

Some of the largest oil tankers still in operation are the TI Class supertankers. The Tankers International L.L.C's fleet consists of TI Africa, TI Asia, TI Europe, and TI Oceania.

In 2003, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in Okpo, South Korea, built these mega tankers for Hellespont.

The TI range is 256 ft (78 meters) shorter than the previously mentioned Knock Nevis at 'only' 1,247 ft (380 meters) in length. The TI range has a tonnage of 234,006 GT (162,477 NT) and can cruise at 16.5 knots (30.5 km/h; 18.9 mph) fully loaded.

The TI ships were first named the Hellespont Alhambra, Hellespont Fairfax, Hellespont Metropolis, and Hellespont Tara. Still, they were bought by Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) and Euronav NV, a Belgian shipowner, in 2004, giving them new names.

TI Asia and TI Africa were converted into FSO oil storage vessels in 2010. However, TI Europe and TI Oceania are still operating as ULCCs.

3. Q-Max ships are also among the biggest ships in the world

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
The Q-Max ships are aptly named.

The world's largest membrane-type liquefied natural gas carriers are the Q-Max ships belonging to the Qatari oil shipper Qatar Gas. They have a gross tonnage of 162,400 GT and span 1,132 ft (345 meters) in length. The Q-max ships have a capacity of 9,393,701 cubic feet (266,000 cubic meters) and travel at 19.5 knots (36.114 km/h; 22.4 mph).

Fourteen Q-Max ships are in circulation, bearing the names: Al Mayeda, Al Mafyar, Umm Slal, Bu Samra, Al Ghuwairiya, Lijmiliya, Al Samriya, Al Dafna, Mozah, Mekaines, Shagra, Zarga, Aamira, and Rasheeda. Samsung Heavy Industries, Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering built the ships.

The first ship Mozah was completed in 2007, and the naming ceremony occurred at the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea. The Q-Max ships all operate under the Qatari gas transport company Nakilat. The Q-Max ships are the largest ships that can dock at the LNG terminals in Qatar; hence, their name bears the "Max" suffix.

4. Another of the world's largest ships is the CSCL Globe

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
The CSCL Globe is another of the world's largest ships.

In November 2014, a naming ceremony was held for the world's biggest ship used for container transport, the CSCL Globe. The CSCL Globe was the first of five 19,000 TEU container ships ordered by China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) in 2013.

The CSCL Globe was purchased from Hyundai Heavy Industries and set to be deployed on the Asia-Europe trade loop. The mega-ship spans a length of 400 m (1,312 ft) and has a gross tonnage of 187,500 GT.

The CSCL Globe is propelled by a 77,200 BHP electronically controlled main engine that is said to outperform other 10,000 TEU container ships in engine efficiency. The engine burns 20% less fuel per TEU due to the feedback it receives from sea conditions. Maersk awarded the Daewoo Shipbuilding company two contracts involving 20 Maersk Triple E Class container ships at roughly US$200 million per ship in 2011.

The CSCL Globe is slightly bigger than the Maersk Triple E Class container ship, which has a capacity of 18,000 TEU, compared to the Globes' 19,000 TEU. The Maersk Triple E Class is similar in length and can cruise at 23 knots (26 mph; 42 km/h).

Triple E stands for the design principles the ships are built on: Economy of scale, Energy efficiency, and improved environment. The Maersk ships are currently the most efficient container ships in service.

5. The Oasis of the Seas is a true behemoth of the ocean

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
The Oasis of the Seas is, hands down, one of the mightiest things afloat.

The Oasis Class of five Royal Caribbean International cruise ships are some of the largest. They include Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the SeasHarmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas. Formerly known as 'Project Genesis', these are the largest passenger or cruise ships. Built for the Royal Caribbean company, they were delivered in 2009, 2010, 2016, 2018, and 2022 respectively. A sixth vessel, which will be named Utopia of the Sea has also been ordered by the company, as of 2023.

The cruise liners extend in excess of 1,181 ft (360 mt) long and can each accommodate around 6,296 passengers and 2,394 crew members. These ships are the fastest of our big league at 22.6 knots (41.9 km/h; 26.0 mph) with a gross tonnage of 225,282 GT.

The cruise liners have enough recreational activities to keep families occupied for weeks. Various of the ships incorporate two FlowRider surf simulators, a zip line that is 82 feet (25 meters) across and nine decks high, an ice-skating rink, two 43 feet (13 meters) high rock-climbing walls, swimming pools, a full-sized basketball court, and even a water park. The Oasis of the Seas is estimated to have cost roughly €900 million ($1.24 billion), making it the most expensive commercial ship ever built.

The Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas facilitate seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. Being a passenger on one of these giants is truly a spectacular experience. No wonder it's so popular! 

6. The RMS Queen Mary 2 is one impressive ship

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
The RMS Queen Mary 2 is one of the most luxurious, and enormous, ships on the planet.

To date, the world's largest transatlantic ocean liner is the RMS Queen Mary 2. This floating wonder is the successor of RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) and is the first major ocean liner built since 1969.

Named by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 after the first Queen Mary, she made her maiden voyage in 2004 and even made a historic eastbound transatlantic voyage in tandem with the soon-to-be-retired QE2. RMS Queen Mary 2 is currently the only transatlantic ocean liner in service between Southampton and New York.

However, the ship is also used as a passenger cruise for an annual world cruise. The RMS Queen Mary 2 has a stern-to-bow length of 1,132 feet (345 meters) and a gross tonnage of 148,528 GT. She can accommodate 2,620 passengers and her 1,253 crew members at 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph).

Although the RMS Queen Mary 2 is around 50 ft (15 mt) shorter than the largest cruise liners, she remains the largest ocean liner ever built.

If you are unaware, the difference between an ocean liner and a cruise liner is that the former is built to transport passengers from one destination to another, generally across a large expanse of open ocean (such as the transatlantic crossing between North America and Europe). At the same time, a cruise ship is typically designed to undertake pleasure voyages closer to the coast, sailing between ports.

That's not the only difference. Ocean liners, designed to travel long voyages, often encounter severe weather. For this reason, the ship has to be built stronger than cruise liners with a narrow and deep bow.

Cruise liners often travel closer to land, and therefore have less chance of encountering harsh sea conditions. Consequently, they can be built with a shorter and broader bow, allowing them to dock in more ports. In addition, the box shape also allows the ship to hold more passengers. As speed is not a substantial concern for cruise liners, they tend to be more fuel-efficient than ocean liners.

The RMS Queen Mary 2 is currently the only transatlantic ocean liner in service since the retirement of RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2008.

7. The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is war incarnate

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is one of the most dangerous ships ever built.

No, not the starship from Star Trek, but she did carry the same name. Regarding warships, USS Enterprise was the longest navy vessel ever built.

She was a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier formerly known as the CVA(N)-65 and was the only ship of the Enterprise-class of aircraft carriers. The name has been adopted by the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-80), currently under construction. Until her launch, planned for 2025, the USS Gerald R Ford is currently the world's longest, at 1,106 ft (337 m) at its longest point.

The Enterprise had quite a history and remains an engineering wonder. The eighth naval vessel and second aircraft carrier to bear the name, the USS Enterprise spanned 1,122 ft (342 m) in length, and was designed to carry 4,600 military personnel, and cruise at 33.6 knots (38.7 mph; 62.2 km/h). She was also the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and, at the time of her decommissioning, the third-oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy.

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was decommissioned in 2017 after more than 55 years of consecutive service. This is longer than any other U.S. aircraft carrier to date. As the world has changed at an incredible pace compared to the 1960s, even a ship at the pinnacle of technology had to be laid to rest eventually.

8. The Club Med 2 is huge

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
Yet another of the world's largest ships is the Club Med 2.

Launched in 1992 in Le Havre, France, the Club Med 2 is one of the largest sailing ships in the world. The ship is 636 feet (194 meters) long and weighs 14,983 tons.

The ship can accommodate 386 passengers in addition to the 214 crew members. The Club Med 2 has a cruising speed of 10–15 knots (19–28 km/h) and currently operates as a cruise ship. She sails through the waters of the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea during summer and the Caribbean in the winter.

She has five masts which are electronically controlled for maximum efficiency. In addition, she combines the power of the seven computer-operated sails with two electric motors powered by four diesel generators. This hybrid system allows the Club Med 2 to alternate between fuel and clean energy. Club Med 2's sister ship, Club Med 1, was sold to Windstar Cruises in 1998 and renamed the Wind Surf. Compared to larger cruise ships, the ship's relatively shallow draft allows it to use smaller anchorages.

The ship sails through the night, making a stop each morning. She also provides various recreational activities, such as ballroom dancing, bridge, music shows, water sports, and more. The Club Med 2's European destinations include ports in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and the Aegean Sea. Transatlantic voyages are offered in the spring (eastbound), and fall (westbound) and are great experiences for all those who love life at sea.

9. The Planet Solar is an exciting and large ship too

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
Planet Solar is a very unique example of the world's largest ships.

Solar electricity is not a form of ship propulsion often used in the shipping industry. The large surface area required for the solar panels makes it difficult to incorporate into transportation ships. However, the team at PlanetSolar has developed a 100 feet (31 meters) long, 50 feet (15 meters) wide craft that can capture nearly 103.4 kW of solar energy to power its 20 kW engine. The boat can cruise at an average speed of around 8 knots (15 kph or 9 mph).

The 60-tonne catamaran cost 18 million euros ($24.4 million) to build and is the largest solar-powered boat in the world. It was designed by LOMOcean Design and built at the Knierim Yacht Club in Kiel, Northern Germany.

The boat was successfully launched in 2010 after 14 months of construction. To achieve maximum photovoltaic potential, the ship features solar-covered extension flaps that protrude from the port and starboard of the boat.

SunPower provided approximately 38,000 next-generation, all-black photo-voltaic cells on the boat's surface. The solar panels have an acclaimed efficiency of 22 percent, which they believe to be the highest efficiency solar cells available during construction. The project was conceived by Raphaël Domjan, who, together with Frenchman Gérard d'Aboville, made the world's first trip around the world entirely powered by solar energy. Their trip ended on the 4th of May 2012, after covering a distance of more than 37,000 miles (60,000 km).

9 of the world's largest ships that have ever been built
Planet Solar's journey.

Although not intended to replace conventional watercraft, the PlanetSolar team applauds that their boat was the first to circumvent the world on solar power alone. Unfortunately, the ship was decommissioned in 2019 due to financial difficulties faced by its operators. However, it remains an important symbol of the potential of solar energy and a reminder of the urgent need for sustainable solutions in the face of climate change.

And that is your lot for today.

The world's largest ships represent a fascinating intersection of technology, innovation, and human ambition. These ships have transformed how we move goods and resources around the world and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of size and efficiency.

Whether you are a maritime enthusiast or simply curious about the wonders of modern engineering, these examples of the world's largest ships will leave a lasting impression.

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