The biggest vessel ever built

Most of us are fascinated with record breakers. Whether it’s the fastest car or the tallest building, we love to ooh and aah the superlative. It’s the wow factor.

Now we can widen our eyes at the biggest vessel ever. Called the Prelude, this ginormous vessel is being built for Royal Dutch Shell at a Samsung shipyard in South Korea and will house the world’s first floating liquid natural gas facility. The hull measurements are 1,600’x243′. Total weight when complete will be 600,000 tons.


The Prelude is essentially a barge filled with tanks and equipment for processing natural gas extracted from the seabed on the northwest side of Australia. It will be moored in place with the help of a huge bow turret built by Drydock World in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The floating facility will be the first floating substitute for shoreside gas liquefaction. It is expected to produce about 3.6 million tons of LNG per year, which will be offloaded to LNG tankers on site.

But back to the numbers. The 1,600′ vessel will be 300′ longer than Maersk’s largest container ships. It will be over 500′ longer than Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and will displace as much water as six of those warships.

It’ll be longer than the Empire State Building is high, even counting its antenna spire.

And the estimated cost is $12 billion.


About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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