The biggest ship in the world is a bit hard to pin down because the definition of “ship” can be a little malleable. As well, biggest could refer to either length or gross tonnage. The largest ship ever built was the Seawise Giant, also called the Happy Giant, the Jahre Viking, and the Knock Nevisa, was a tanker ship that measured 1,504 feet and had a gross tonnage of 260,941. However, this vessel was also decommissioned and beached back in 2009. The anchor, which weighed 36 tonnes, was sent to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

The Biggest Ships in the World

Because “ship” can refer to different things there are many types of vessels which could all qualify as the biggest ship in the world. There are also some that were in service, like the Seawise Giant, which are no longer in use so there are “old” biggest ships and current biggest ships. I’ll cover some of the most common types of large vessels, and which ones are the biggest examples on the sea today.

World’s Biggest Oil Tankers

The Seawise Giant oil tanker was the largest ever built as I mentioned above, but it is no longer in use. The biggest tanker that is currently in operation is known as the Euronov Oceania. It measures 380 meters in length or about 1,247 feet. The draft on this massive vessel is 24 meters or nearly 79 feet. The vessel is also 68 meters or 223 feet wide.

In terms of weight, the gross tonnage is 234,000 tons and the deadweight, or the amount of weight the tanker can carry is 441,585 tonnes. As an oil tanker, that means it’s capable of carrying 3 million barrels of oil at a time.

The Oceania is one of four TI-class supertankers that are in operation around the world today, all of which are very close to the same size.

A subset of these tanks are the Q-Max vessels which are LNG or liquid natural gas tankers. There are currently 14 Q-Max LNG tankers in the world and they are the largest of their kind. Each vessel measures 345 meters or 1,132 feet in length. They are just under 54 meters or 177 feet wide and are capable of transporting 9.4 million cubic feet of natural gas.

World’s Biggest Military Vessels

The USS Enterprise was the longest Navy vessel in the world though it has since been decommissioned. It was the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the world and was 342 meters or 1,123 feet in length.

Unlike most Naval ships, the Enterprise was not a member of a class. It was built in between two other classes, the Kittyhawk class and the Nimitz class. It was to be the first example of a new class but that never came to be, so it was a standalone carrier.

The vessel has a crew of 4,600 and the displacement was 94,781 tonnes.

The Enterprise was replaced by the Nimitz class of vessels and Nimitz are now being replaced by Gerald R. Ford class carriers. Gerald R. Ford class carriers are set to have a length of 1.092 feet making them slightly shorter than the Enterprise. However, the displacement of a Gerald R Ford class carrier is around 100,000 tonnes.

Nimitz-class carriers are close in size to Gerald R. Ford class, but Ford is slightly bigger overall.

Outside of the United States, the largest military vessel in the world belongs to the People’s Liberation Army Navy of China. The Fujian aircraft carrier was launched in 2022 and measures 984 feet in length at the waterline and 1,036 feet along the deck. It has a displacement of 71,875 tonnes.

In Russia, the Admiral Kuznetsov is the largest carrier in the fleet, and it dates back to the early 1980s. It’s 1,000 feet long and features a displacement of about 53,000 tonnes.

World’s Biggest Cruise Ship

You can read our breakdown of the largest cruise ship in the world elsewhere, but it’s currently Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. It’s 1,188 feet in length and features a gross tonnage of 236,857.  The ship has an occupancy of 5,734 guests assuming double occupancy in each room. However, they can max out their occupancy at a remarkable 6,988 passengers. Add to this a crew of 2,300 people and the Wonder of the Seas is capable of holding 9,288 people.

World’s Biggest Bulk Carriers

Valemax is the name of the largest bulk carrier vessels in the world and there are a fleet of them. The ships are mainly used for carrying ore in their seven holds and they stretch to an impressive 362 meters or about 1,188 feet. For context, the Eiffel Tower could be laid down on the deck with several meters to spare.

A Valemax carrier can hold up to 400,000 tons of cargo and the entire crew manning the vessel is just 22 people.

Container Ships

The largest container ship in the world is the Ever Ace. You may remember the Evergreen class of ships from the news and, in specific, when the Ever Ace’s sister ship the Ever Given, blocked the Suez Canal for six days in 2021.

Ever Given was an Evergreen-G class of vessel while the Ever Ace is an Evergreen-A, which is larger. It can hold 23,992 containers on board. It’s 201.7 feet wide and 1,312 feet long with a draft of 54 feet. The gross tonnage of 235,579.

By gross tonnage there is a slightly larger container ship in operation in the world as the shipping industry is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of both longest ships and heaviest ships. There are 9 Jacques Saadé class container ships which have a gross tonnage of 236,583 putting them just ahead of the Ever Ace. In terms of other dimensions, they are slightly smaller than the Ever Ace and feature a slightly smaller beam and draft.

World’s Biggest Lake Freighter

Though you may not think of freshwater vessels as being anywhere near as large as their oceangoing counterparts, they do come close. The largest lake freighter in the world is the Paul R. Tregurtha, better known as the  Queen of the Lakes which operates on the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States.

The Tregurtha measures in at 308 meters or 1, 013 feet in length. The gross tonnage is 36,360.

Other Ships

There are some specialty ships in the world that also clock in at a remarkable size. The largest is the Pioneering Spirit which is a catamaran crane vessel. The ship is used for construction and destruction jobs at sea that obviously require heavy equipment. In this case it’s things like building oil platforms or oil pipelines underwater.

The Pioneering Spirit measures 383 meters or 1,253 feet in length and 124 meters or 407 wide. The draft can get to 89 feet, presumably while the crane is in use. In terms of gross tonnage the vessel measures a record breaking 403,342 tonnes, which is the largest in the world. The only vessels that rival this are tankers like the Oceania I mentioned above when they are laden with a full load and we’re talking about their deadweight rather than gross tonnage.

The displacement of the Pioneering Spirit is quite remarkable. In transit the displacement is 365,000 tonnes. At maximum draft, the displacement can be bumped up to a stunning 1,000,000 tonnes.

In 2019, the Spirit was upgraded so that the crane could lift as much as 60,000 tonnes, up from the 48,000 tonnes previously.

You likely wouldn’t think of a wooden ship as having any chance at competing here but, historically, there have been some massive wooden ships and none achieved the incredible dimensions of the schooner called the Wyoming.

The Wyoming was intended to be a cargo ship for coal and was made to an unbelievable 140 meters of 450 feet in length. That’s only a third of the length of some of the massive modern vessels but try to imagine a 450 foot long wooden sailboat and how that would handle on the seas.

The Wyoming actually started to bend when it was at sea and things got rough. They needed pumps in the hold because the wood would flex and crack and allow water in.

The Bottom Line

The largest vessel ever made was the Seawise Giant which was 1,504 feet in length and had a gross tonnage of 260,941. As it’s no longer in use, the longest ship currently in use in the world is the Ever Ace container ship at 1,312 feet. The Pioneering Spirit, on the other hand, is a crane ship that has a 403,342 gross tonnage and can displace as much as 1,000,000 tons.