It’s fair to say that the world’s largest ships have captivated our imagination ever since humans took to the water over 6,000 years ago. Throughout history nations and empires have competed to build ever bigger naval vessels.
In the modern age it is no different and you can’t fail to be impressed by the largest and longest ships in the world. Like the world’s biggest planes and the longest trains, these massive ships are staggering feats of engineering.
Amazingly, the fundamental shape of boats and ships has barely changed, but the waterborne wonders in this article are a tad bigger than the boats the ancient Egyptians once built to sail down the Nile.
By any criteria in which ‘biggest’ is judged – gross tonnage, length or TEU capacity (the number of twenty-foot equivalent units a ship can carry), these ships seem to defy the laws of physics!
If you’ve ever seen one of the world’s biggest ships up close you’ll know just how gigantic they are. Here’s our list of the largest ships in the world.
USS Gerald R Ford
Length: 333m | Displacement: 100,000 tons | Speed: 35mph | Cost: $12.8 billion
Named after the 38th President of the United States, the nuclear-powered USS Gerald R Ford is the world’s largest aircraft carrier, the largest warship ever built in terms of displacement and one of the biggest ships in the world.
The 78m wide flight deck is capable of carrying up to 90 aircraft and is home to over 4,500 personnel.
Symphony of the Seas
Length: 361m | Speed: 25mph | Gross tonnage: 228,081 | Decks: 18
Launched in April 2018 at a cost of $1.35 billion, Symphony of the Seas is the world’s biggest cruise ship and spends much of its life taking almost 6,000 guests and 2,200 crew around the Caribbean islands.
It has 2,759 cabins, a ‘high street’ full of designer shops, 20 restaurants and 14 bars, 20 pools, a 1,400-seat theatre, 24 guest lifts and the Central Park is home to almost 21,000 tropical plants!
If you’ve ever heard the word ‘floating city’, this is what it means!
Length: 380m | Gross tonnage: 441,893 | Capacity: 503,409,000 litres | Speed: 19mph
Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe are four identical TI class ultra-large crude carriers that are, by displacement, deadweight tonnage (cargo mass) and gross tonnage (internal volume) the second largest ships in the world.
In 2010 two of the huge double-hulled supertankers, Asia and Africa, were converted into floating storage and offloading (FSO) vessels.
Length: 400m | Width: 61m | Speed: 26mph | TEU capacity: 24,000
The largest and most technologically-advanced container ship in the world, the Panama-flagged HMM Algeciras is not just one of the largest ships in the world and longest ships in the world, it is arguably the largest.
It is the first in a series of 12 identical ships with a capacity of 24,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units, more commonly known as shipping containers). In fact everything about this colossal container ship is big, including the engine. One of the world’s most powerful marine engines, it is 22m long, 18m high and weighs a staggering 2,230 tons.
Length: 458.5m | Displacement: 657,019 tons | Speed: 19mph | Capacity: 652m litres
Also called Oppama, Happy Giant, Jahre Viking, Knock Nevis and Mont dependent on ownership, the Seawise Giant was the longest and heaviest self-propelled ship in history and possessed the greatest deadweight tonnage ever recorded at 564,763.
This super-sized oil tanker was longer than the Empire State Building is tall and entered service in 1979. She was sunk during the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 but salvaged and returned to service, finally being breached in India and scrapped in 2010.
And Another Thing: The Biggest Boat in the World
What’s the difference between a ship and a boat? It seems there are a number of possible answers but no universally accepted distinction, for example a ship has a commander and a crew, a boat has whoever happens to be on it.
Or a ship can carry a boat but a boat can’t carry a ship. Or boats are privately owned and ships aren’t which is the criteria we have opted for. Therefore, the biggest boat in the world is the Azzam, a 180m superyacht owned by the president of the United Arab Emirates, rumoured to cost over $600 million.
Built by German shipyard Lürssen Yachts with the interior by renowned French designer Christophe Leoni, Azzam (translated as ‘Resolute’) can accommodate 36 guests in opulent style.
The biggest ships in the world are truly incredible machines but will we ever see a 500m ship? Shipping is moving slowly towards a greener and more efficient future and with advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, communication and propulsion technology, we will definitely see incredible new frontiers opening up in ocean-bound transportation in the 21st century.