Nation’s longest container ship launches from San Diego shipyard

SAN DIEGO -- The largest container ship ever built in San Diego had a ceremonial launch and christening at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company shipyard Saturday.

At 870 feet long, the Lurline is also the longest container ship in the country, NASSCO said.

"Probably the biggest boat I've ever seen," one attendee told FOX 5.

Matson will use the container ship to deliver goods to Hawaii, including groceries, construction supplies, tractors and as many as 800 cars at a time.

The thousands of shipbuilders who worked on the Lurline, along with their families and friends, attended the ceremony, which included a traditional breaking of a champagne bottle on the hull.

The Lurline is the first of two container ships being built for Matson. Its sister ship is scheduled to launch next summer. The two ships will replace three steam ships, and their liquefied natural gas-capable engines make them a more energy-efficient option, said Matson Chairman and CEO Matt Cox.

"We built these ships larger so we can operate fewer of them," Cox said.  "And operating fewer of them has lower fuel costs, lower emissions, and so we’re able to pack more on the same ships to minimize the fuel impacts.”

General Dynamics NASSCO President Kevin Graney said the company has roughly 3,000 employees. They added approximately 900 permanent employees over the last 18 months to work on the Lurline and other projects.

"We're continuing to hire," Graney said. "We have openings for about another 700 people and we expect to have those people hired by the end of the year."

Graney said every dollar spent at a San Diego shipyard has an economic impact of two-and-a-half dollars.

"The jobs that we generate, the businesses that we touch -- not just here in San Diego but around the region and across the country -- are significant," Graney said.

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