The Cho Yang Atlas, along with several of her sister ships, including the Cho Yang Alpha and the Cho Yang Ark, ply the high seas on what is know as "The Pendulum Route". The eastern end of the pendulum is Los Angeles, the western Hamburg, Germany, a voyage of about 18,500 miles, that takes about forty days. I boarded in Los Angles and disembarked in Hamburg, though there were three other passengers who took segments of the voyage.

The Atlas is a 4,500 T.E.U* container ship that has been in service since July of 1997, under charter to the Cho Yang Shipping Company, LTD, (HK). While not the largest container ship in service, an idea of its size can be gained by comparison with the Titanic. The Atlas is 964 feet (294 meters) compared with the 882.5 of the Titanic. The Atlas has a displacement tonnage of 82,496 metric tons, the Titanic, 66,000. Both could move through the sea at speeds up to 25 knots.

While the Titanic was capable of carrying 2,433 passengers, the Atlas carries a mere 8 maximum, in four cabins on "D" and "E" decks. Three cabins have side views, one with a forward facing view only. This cabin was on the "D" deck. The others also have either fore or aft views. As you might expect, the forward and aft views on "D" deck were blocked by containers when stacked more than five high on either the forward or aft decks. Like most freighters, there was no elevator.

While there were no elegant dining rooms, smoking rooms and libraries found on the Titanic, the Atlas can boast of its wet sauna, pool (inside "D" deck) and cabins with TVs VCR's and stereo A.M./F.M. radios, tape and CD players. She had a growing library of books in both English and German located in the officer's rec. room on the "E" deck, which also contained a large screen TV

The officer's mess is located on the port side on the "A" deck, one deck above the ship's main deck. The crew's mess is one the starboard side, with the kitchen connecting the two. The food was a cut above the usual fare found on freighters. In fact, the Filipino cook somehow managed never to serve the same dinner/lunch meal twice. There were usually salads available at noon and evening meals. The assortment of cheeses and cold meats available at lunch and dinner would satisfy the pallets of most Germans. Deserts were limited to ice cream and calorie packed chocolate cakes with cream fillings. The pantry was always open for those passengers or crew who wanted a late night snack. Ice tea and ice water seemed to be unknown to the German crew, however, the steward quickly adapted to the needs of us American's who are used to cold drinks with meals.

The Atlas, unlike many freighters, had walkways around the super structure on each deck with large open deck space on the "F" deck. These were adequate for sun bathing and allowed placement of deck chairs on the lee side of the ship. Even with a wind speed of zero, which was rare, placement of deck chairs was critical given the speed of the ship. However, residue from the engine was tremendous coating the deck, daily with a black soot. While this is to be expected with any freighter, the Atlas' 55,800 HP engine, disgorged soot in quantifies much greater then a smaller freighter with a 15,000-20,000 HP engine. This really became a problem as the decks were washed down only once during the voyage. To prevent tracking this residue in one's cabin, shoe removal was necessary least the carpet be ruined. Interior maintenance and appearance of the Atlas was excellent.

I'm sure that the captain would have liked to have washed down all decks on a daily bases, however, with an on deck crew of about ten men this just was not possible (the total crew on board was only 20). The problem of outside maintenance was compounded because a module in the ship's steering computer failed, requiring the ship be manually steered by an OS or AB from the Red Sea to Le Harve. This meant that there was one less man for deck duties.

The main deck was always dirty, excepting the fo's'cle. This was due in part to an inadequate deck crew and the design of the main deck, which had no "scuppers". This, coupled with the 2" deck edge, prevented the deck from being easily cleaned. I was advised that the absence of scuppers was to avoid dirty water from running down and staining the sides of the ship. I guess the "cost benefit" consideration was such that scupper installation was excluded in the ship's design. Oh well, this is a freighter not a cruise ship.

A word about noise is in order. Big ships have big engines. Big engines require massive air intakes. These intakes are extremely noisy at just about any place on the port or starboard side of the super structure (outside). They were faintly heard even within my "E" deck cabin, though I may be hypercritical regarding this observation. As with all freighters, the quietest part of the ship was the fo'c's'le area.

The Atlas, and all other ships of her size, is extremely stable. While we encountered no heavy seas during the voyage, a three-foot sea was not noticeable. Personally, I like a ship that is about 300 feet shorter so that a bit of pitch and roll is always noticeable. In the future I shall stick to freighters with a 1500 T.E.U. capacity, or less. If I want stability, I will sail on a cruise ship. An Atlantic crossing in the winter is more my style.

As with all container ships, port times were short. The port city is not always close to where the ship docks. For example, the Port of Rotterdam is located 50 kilometers from the city; 20 kilometers at Le Harve. The Hanji pier, where the Atlas docks in Hong Kong, is located across the bay from the island of Hong Kong, though this presents no particular problem in getting to the City. The facility at Oakland is essentially in the middle of the San Francisco bay, at the end of the old Alameda Air Base, making accessibility to San Francisco rather difficult. Smaller ships dock close to Oakland and thus the city of Oakland and public transportation (Bart) to San Francisco. The facilities in Singapore are within walking/taxi distance of the city, however, the weather there, being only 2 degrees from the equator, is too hot for a lot of walking. In fact, it was so hot and humid during the first week in May that I stayed aboard ship.

What is the part of the voyage did I liked best and least? The beautiful scenery sailing up the River Elbe and the flies and wasteland between Port Said and the Mediterranean. Would I take this voyage or any part of it again? No, not on a large container ship like the Atlas. But it might be just the thing for the traveler who wants the experience of being at sea yet wants to feel like they are ashore.

Here are the particulars on the Atlas.

*T.E.U., or technical equivalent unit, equals one 20 foot container.

R. F. Ahern
Los Angeles, CA.