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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 02:00 GMT
Giant Christmas goods ship docks
Emma Maersk
The Emma Maersk is docking at Felixstowe

A ship said to be the world's largest container vessel has arrived in a Suffolk port to unload 45,000 tonnes of Christmas goods from China.

Hundreds of spectators lined the shore to watch the Emma Maersk as it was guided into Felixstowe by three tugs.

The ship is a quarter of a mile long, 200ft high and as wide as a motorway.

Its cargo of toys, books, computers, Christmas crackers, decorations and food, are bound for Britain and mainland Europe.

The vessel's master, Henrik Solmer, expressed pride at being the first person to take charge of it and said he was often hailed by other ships that it passed.

Environmental fears

Mr Solmer said: "They say, 'Hey, we heard about you and it is nice to see you coming. You are beautiful and it is a nice speed that you are doing'."

The ship is a PS-class vessel
The anchor of the ship weighs 29 tons
It can carry 11,000 20ft containers
The ship can be operated by a crew of just 13
It is equipped with over 40,000 metres of pipes
Its accommodation and bridge are as high as a 12-storey building

But campaigners have warned of the environmental damage such giant ships could cause.

"The environmental costs of long-distance trade need to be properly taken into account," said Dr Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP for South East England.

"We must manage international trade in a way which is socially and environmentally sustainable, working towards global agreement on a raft of measures such as taxation on fuel and import tariffs designed to support home-grown businesses.

"This will help offset the environmental damage caused by ships like the Emma Maersk plying international waters filled with MP3 players and plastic toys."

China trade

Paul Davey, of the Port of Felixstowe, said the size of the load reflected the increase of trade with China.

"This year alone we have seen a 16% increase in the volume of goods coming in from China.

"The year before that it was 24%, so it is continuing at a considerable pace of increase," he said.

The ship's Danish owner, Maersk Line, said the Emma Maersk was "one of the most environmentally friendly" container-vessels built.

On its website it says the ship is the largest container vessel in the world.

The ship is on its maiden voyage and has previously called at Yantian in China, Hong Kong and Tanjung Pelepas, in Malaysia.

A total of 3,000 containers are being unloaded in the Suffolk port.

The ship will then move on to mainland Europe to deliver other containers.

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