The CMA CGM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, the largest vessel ever to call at a U.S. port is currently in China, deployed on the Pearl River Express service, completing her maiden calls. Commanding this giant is 47 years-old Captain Velibor Krpan, who ensures everything runs to schedule. He comes from Rijeka in Croatia and joined CMA CGM in July 2002; “I became Captain in December 2002 after 12 years at sea first as a Cadet and then as a Deck Officer. My career path was the same as any other Captain. It requires certain knowledge and skills. And a little bit of luck sometimes.”
We asked him about his first experience within the CMA CGM Group. He told us, “My first vessel was the CMA CGM ORAN, 102 LOA, with a 350 TEU capacity.” Today he is in charge of the CMA CGM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, a 1,300 ft. long cargo vessel with an 18,000 TEUs capacity, “This is the first time that I am in charge of a vessel of this size; the previous was the CMA CGM MARCO POLO which has a 16,000-TEU-capacity. There is really not much difference. The size is actually the same, but this one has a larger capacity. Like any other vessel, the size requires attention during the berthing and unberthing procedures. In terms of navigation, there is fundamentally no difference but one needs to adapt quickly to the new onboard technologies.”
The CMA CGM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN arrived at the Port of L.A. on December 26, 2015, which involved unprecedented measures. Captain Krpan holds very fond memories of the occasion, “Everything was well prepared and organized by all the parties involved, the pilots, the ports, the terminals, the tug companies, and of course by the CMA CGM Group as well. Therefore our two U.S. port calls at Los Angeles and Oakland were a great success and were performed very smoothly, without any delays or problems.”
Captain Krpan was pleased to welcome L.A. Major Eric Garcetti onboard, for a tour of the vessel. He remembers, “Mayor Garcetti’s tour was short but he demonstrated a lot of interest in the various aspects of ship and the life onboard. His first question was how many “Chefs” there are onboard! He is still a reservist of the U.S. Navy. He was really impressed by the vessel and as an amateur photographer he took a lot of photos in all areas of the vessel.”
Captain Krpan will sail the CMA CGM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN back to the U.S. mid-February, accompanied by 27 crew members.