At first glance, it is hard to know what to make of the Aranui 5. It is clearly some kind of passenger vessel, but it is also appears to be a freight vessel. The ship is in fact both and is set to begin voyages in French Polynesia in late November. The Aranui 5 is replacing its predecessor, the Aranui 3 on a dual mission to bring travelers and commodities to the Marquesas Islands, the remotest archipelago in the world.
The Aranui 5 will complete a circuit of 2,200 miles leaving from Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, and traveling to all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas chain. Making it into the archipelago alone takes over three day’s sea journey. Also, vessel has the largest number of passenger berths of any cargo ship allowing for passenger capacity of around 260 up over 50 passengers from its predecessor that has been in operation since 2003.
The 125 meter (410 foot) ship can carry over 2,000 tons of freight. The vessel both allows visitors access to the remote Polynesian Islands made famous by Paul Gauguin, but it also carries supplies, fuel and other staples to the remote island ports otherwise cut off from commerce. However, the ship does not just make deliveries, it also receives imports form the islands in the form of dried coconut, citrus and fish.
Although the Aranui 5 is unique in design, it represents a concept that has been around in the shipping industry for many years: the fusion of cargo and cruising. Currently, there are about 300 passenger carrying cargo ships in the shipping industry, which can carry up to a maximum of 12 passengers (over this number the ship must maintain a doctor aboard). The sea travel company Cruise People Ltd. even state that all freighter voyages they showcase are aboard vessels with outside staterooms and swimming pools available.
CMA CGM, the third largest container shipping company notes on its website that 874 passengers traveled onboard its vessels in 2013. As a selling point, the company advertises passage aboard its largest vessels the 16,020TEU containerships CMA CGM Marco Polo and CMA CGM Alexander von Humbolt. The various itineraries the ships offer include passage from the U.S. to Asia and Asia to the Mediterranean.
Similarly, Rickmers Line offers various itineraries including a 124 around the world voyage. However, the company now prohibits passenger transportation between Genoa and Singapore as some passengers failed to heed the crew’s warning about being on deck in known pirate zones. Typical pricing for such a trip is around $135 per person per day.
There are even online guides for freighter travel that give stories from previous passengers and teach laymen maritime terminology that they will need for their voyage.