Back in May, the increasingly bustling Port of Virginia marked a milestone when the COSCO Development pulled in, then the largest container ship to ever call the port and the East Coast.
Since then, vessels even larger than the Development, which can carry the equivalent of 13,092 twenty-foot containers, have been a regular feature at the port. And on Monday, the CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt set a new bar for big ships, docking its 1,200-foot-long bulk at the Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth.
The ship, which can carry the equivalent of 14,400 twenty-foot containers, is the biggest ship to ever call on the East Coast and made its way to Virginia from the Panama Canal. France-based CMA CGM is part of the Ocean Alliance, a group of ocean carriers that agree to contribute ships and share space. The Theodore Roosevelt is part of the alliance’s South Atlantic Express Service, a weekly service between Asia and the U.S. East Coast. The Port of Virginia is the first stop on the service.
“This is a notable step-up in size. In Virginia, the big-ship era started in May and we continue to see larger and larger vessels,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority in a statement. “It’s ships like this and those to follow that are driving our expansion,” he said.
The port is spending $670 million to expand the Virginia International Gateway and Norfolk International Terminals to handle the ever-bigger ships and cargo loads.
Last week, the port ordered four new ship-to-shore cranes, which will be the largest ever delivered to the East Coast, Reinhart said. The cranes, which can reach across a vessel that is 26 containers wide, are expected in April 2019.
“We anticipated needing this capacity for the ships that will be coming to Virginia 10 years from now. When that day comes, the Port of Virginia will be ready,” said Virginia Port Authority Board Chairman John G. Milliken.
Last month, the port set a record for its busiest July to date, with cargo volume up 7.5 percent compared to the same month last year. For the calendar year so far, volumes are up 8.2 percent compared to this time last year.