Ships are immense pieces of technology, giant, floating testaments to mankind's great achievements in engineering and construction. They have achieved almost mythical prowess, like the white whale, and inspire awe among all who see them. They have granted humanity the ability to do something that would otherwise be impossible - travelling by sea.
What's more, ships are massive. So we decided to make a list of the biggest ships around, just because we could. Sadly, it turns out that it is actually rather difficult to tally up the largest ones in any semblance of order - it's not at all like "what is the fastest car around?"
Because ships can be measured in terms of length, displacement, gross tonnage and deadweight tonnage, among others, it can be tricky to make an accurate comparison. Also, ships are often scrapped - the longest one in service today is significantly shorter than one constructed in the â€˜70s.
So then, we changed our minds. Instead, we set out to list some of the biggest ships in different categories, and we've come much closer to achieving this goal. Read on and enjoy!
The Biggest Ship Currently in Service
Currently, there is no single largest ship. In fact, there are twenty! The Maersk Triple E class container ship entered service just this year, and measure a whopping 399 metres in length. They have a deadweight tonnage of almost 200,000, and have replaced the old Maersk E class ships at the top of the pile. They can carry an impressive 18,000 containers! For pictures of the goods-bearing leviathan, click here.
The Largest Ship to Have Existed
With a deadweight tonnage almost three times the capacity of the above Triple Es, the Seawise Giant was a particularly huge beastie. Also known as Mont, Oppama, Happy Giant, Knock Nevis and Jahre Viking at various companies, she was built in 1979, but was actually smaller than the Pierre Guillaumat until she was lengthened.
She was too large to pass through the Channel, and was sunk during the Iran-Iraq War, but was repaired and carried on in service until 2010, when she was scrapped in India.
The World's Largest Yacht
Earlier this year, LÃ¼rssen Yachts launched the Azzam, a yacht measuring 180 metres in length, beating the previous record-holder by almost 20m. Owned by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE, the boat can travel at speeds above 30 knots, and is longer than the Royal Navy's Type 45 Destroyersâ€¦
With a rather grandiose kitchen on board, we can only hope Sheikh Khalifa hires an accomplished chef - either that, or he has some marine fire fighting equipment to hand!
The Biggest Ship Ever Conceived
Now this is the big one, the granddaddy of them all. The Freedom Ship was a project first proposed towards the end of the â€˜90s, and was designed to be a floating city, a place to live outside of all national territories and governments.
It was to have enough condos for 50,000 people, an airstrip large enough to land a 737 on, schools, offices and even a casino. It was to be almost 1.5km long (three times the length of our pal the Seawise Giant, to put that into perspective), and estimates for the cost at the time quickly spiralled north of $11 billion!
Sadly, it's unlikely ever to see the light of day. The project has not updated since 2008, and there is currently no shipyard big enough to even dream of putting together something of its size!