LOA: 1,601 Feet

The world's largest ship just floated out of dry dock. Her beam is 243 feet.

World's largest vessel Prelude

Prelude is the world's largest vessel at 1,601 feet.

Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea has just launched the world's largest ship, a 1,601-footer called Prelude — which of course begs the question, "prelude to what?"

It took a year to build the vessel to the point that she could float out of dry dock, and fitting out will continue until 2017, when the official launch is planned. The owner is Shell, which is going to use Prelude as a floating liquefied-natural-gas facility. The vessel will be able to produce 3.6 metric tons of the stuff each year and store it at minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prelude's size is hard to fathom; her beam is 243 feet. For comparison's sake, the beam on Azzam, the world's largest superyacht, is a "mere" 68 feet, 4 inches. Prelude's storage tanks would fill 175 Olympic-size swimming pools, and she reportedly can withstand a Category 5 hurricane, also making even the largest yachts seem like tub toys.

"A prelude to what?" we ask again. Time will tell, but Azzam is jaw-dropping at 590 feet long, so it will likely be a good, long time before Prelude has any competition from the luxury yachting sector.