Voyage Report: CMA CGM Debussy


The 6,627 TEU containership CMA CGM Debussy was built by Hanjin in 2001. She is 300 metres long and has a beam of 40 metres. Her gross and net tonnages are 73,157 and 41,255 respectively. Despite her size, she has an impressive service speed of 26 knots. She is owned and operated by the French shipping line CMA CGM and sails regularly between North Europe and the Far East, via the Suez Canal and the Middle East.

CMA CGM Debussy was still on her maiden voyage when I joined her in Le Havre where she had arrived from Malta. I stayed on board while she completed her North European schedule, calling at Hamburg, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge and finally home, Southampton.

CMA CGM Debussy alongside at Zeebrugge

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I boarded the vessel shortly after she had berthed, late in the evening of November 23rd 2001. She was alongside at the Europe Atlantique Terminal (EAT) and worked with four cranes during her stay. The terminal operates with a fleet of straddle carriers moving the containers to/from the quayside gantries. Photo 01, below, sees a 40' container being loaded onto the vessel the next day, viewed from my cabin window six decks above the main deck. Photo 02 shows the vessel working alongside a wet quay following one of many showers we had that day while photo 03 gives a good impression of the size of the vessel.

01 02 03

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After sailing from Le Havre at 1200hrs on the 24th, we sailed up the English Channel, heading for Hamburg. The Elbe pilot boarded the next morning as we began our seven hour passage up the river to our berth at Burchardkai where we arrived at 1300hrs. Cargo operations began immediately on arrival with two cranes which soon became five as work continued into the night. The HHLA-managed terminal operates in a similar way to Le Havre with straddle carriers transporting boxes around the quay. The view from the cabin was rather more panoramic than previously as many of the higher containers had been discharged. Photo 04 proves that beyond the vessel's decks it was now possible to see down the Elbe, from where we had come. Looking from the vessel's port side in photo 05 it is impossible to miss the flood defences which line the quayside. Large gates can be closed when extreme spring tides and bad weather force large volumes of water up the river, protecting millions of dollars worth of cargo stored on the quay. A forklift truck is dwarfed in the same picture by a 40 tonne hatch cover which has been discharged to permit access to one of the vessel's holds. We sailed from Hamburg in the evening of the 26th, the sun setting as we made our way down the Elbe (photo 06), destination Rotterdam.

04 05 06

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CMA CGM Debussy prepares to berth at the ECT Delta Terminal in photo 07, shortly after 0800hrs the next day. From an operational perspective, this was certainly the most interesting port of the voyage. Driverless chassis units transfer boxes between cranes and automatic stacking gantries by following magnetic strips buried beneath the surface of the quay. These can be seen in photos 08 and 09. The ship took on bunkers in Rotterdam from two tank barges that came alongside us once we were all fast. Loading and discharging was completed overnight and we slipped out of Rotterdam at 0330hrs on the short voyage to Zeebrugge.

07 08 09

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After being at sea for only a few hours, we were alongside in Zeebrugge by 0930hrs on the 29th. The tug in photo 10 can be seen swinging the bow of our vessel round as we proceed towards the berth passing another vessel, the Ever Diamond seen in photo 11, on our way. Due to draft restrictions there was no rush to complete cargo operations so work did not start until 1400hrs that day. Photo 12 shows that Zeebrugge, like Le Havre and Hamburg, operates a fleet of straddle carriers to move containers the short distance between the stacking area and the vessel. We were in Zeebrugge for 23 hours, sailing for Southampton at 0830hrs on Friday 30th.

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I had hoped to experience some severe weather during the voyage, but the closest I got was the choppy waters of the Dover Straits on the voyage home, as seen in photo 13. Although a reasonable swell had very little noticable effect on our great vessel, we passed several small coasters getting thrown about by the sea. Finally, photo 14 sees CMA CGM Debussy heading along the English Channel on a cold, wet evening. It was 2200hrs when we berthed at Southampton so I didn't get to see my home port in the light of day. Nevertheless it was still very interesting to watch the pilot, master and 2nd officer skilfully navigating the ship through the familiar waters of the Solent and up Southampton Water.

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