This Is The Story Of The Rise, Rebirth, And Fall Of The World’s Longest Ship

Originally commissioned in the late 1970s by a Greek businessman who later withdrew, the Seawise Giant, later renamed Jahre Viking and eventually Knock Nevis, was a colossal supertanker that fascinated the world with its extraordinary size and remarkable story of resilience. Tung Chao Yung of Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) eventually purchased and expanded this mammoth vessel, which measured an astounding 1,504 feet in length, surpassing even the combined lengths of the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.

“Her deck covered more area than six football fields. End to end, she was just over 1500 feet — longer than the Empire State Building is tall,” Andrew Boyd, an expert in industrial engineering from the Univerisity of Houston, said. 

For over a decade, the Seawise Giant played a pivotal role in transporting crude oil globally, notable for its immense size which posed unique operational and navigational challenges. However, its illustrious career was abruptly halted in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq War when it was attacked and sunk by Iraqi forces while carrying Iranian crude oil. Engulfed in flames, the ship was left declared a total loss in Brunei Bay, deemed economically unviable for salvage.

“She was declared a total constructive loss and laid up in Brunei Bay. But the tides of fortune had other things in store for her.” Surrinder Kuman Mohan, a sailor who served as the captain of the Seawise Giant for 10 years, said in an interview.

Unexpectedly, a Norwegian company saw an opportunity and invested heavily to salvage and refurbish the vessel, renaming it the Happy Giant. Subsequently, it was sold to Jørgen Jahre, who rechristened it Jahre Viking and returned it to service as one of the largest ships in the world once again. Its voyages and distinctive features attracted significant media coverage, featuring in documentaries and television shows globally.

“The vessel has received extensive media coverage in the past. BBC’s Discovery channel has featured T. T. Jahre Viking, interviewed with BBC by “Jeremy Clarksons. The program “Extreme Machines” was shown on television worldwide several times, including in India. Another program, “Building the Biggest“, received wide coverage worldwide,” Mohan said.

Despite its grandeur and historical significance, Jahre Viking faced challenges as the maritime industry evolved. The transition to smaller, more efficient vessels rendered Jahre Viking economically impractical to operate due to its high fuel consumption and limited maneuverability through narrow canals. Ultimately, it was sold to First Olsen Tankers, repurposed as a stationary storage unit in Qatar’s Al Shaheen Oil Field under the name Knock Nevis.

In 2009, the final chapter of the Seawise Giant’s journey began as it was sold to an Indian ship-breaking yard and dismantled over a year by a workforce of 18,000. Today, only its anchor remains, displayed at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum as a testament to its colossal legacy.

The story of the Seawise Giant is more than just about its enormous size. It represents human ambition, technological achievement, and the determination to build something great despite facing big challenges. From its beginning to its end, it marks the end of a special moment in maritime history, showing us how even the biggest things people create don’t last forever.

“To my great regret, I do not think another vessel of the size of Jahre Viking will ever be built, as it is not financially viable considering the current new building cost, legislation of double hulls, and the demand for the crude oil,” Mohan said.

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