U.S. ports welcome giant cargo ship
SAVANNAH, Ga. — The largest cargo ship ever to visit ports on the U.S. East Coast is so long the Statue of Liberty and Washington Monument could fit end-to-end along its deck and still leave room for Big Ben.
The COSCO Development arrived Thursday at the Port of Savannah after cruising past dozens of onlookers who cheered and took photos of the mammoth vessel from Savannah’s downtown riverfront.
“It takes up the whole river!” Andrew Evans, who served as a ship’s officer in the 1960s, exclaimed to his wife as the ship slowly lumbered into view, the cargo containers stacked on its deck towering above trees on the shore.
“The largest ships I was on, you could fit 10 of them on that ship,” Evans said.
At 1,200 feet bow-to-stern, the COSCO Development can carry 13,000 cargo containers, each measuring 20 feet long.
The big ship, flagged out of Hong Kong and owned by China-based COSCO Shipping Lines, also is the largest to pass through the Panama Canal following a major expansion last year. Its arrival on the U.S. East Coast shows shippers aren’t waiting for the seaports scrambling to deepen their harbors so the larger ships can pass fully loaded at low tide.
Few big enough: The Port of Virginia, where the ship docked earlier this week, is one of only four East Coast ports with the desired 50 feet of depth at low tide. A $973 million deepening of Savannah’s shipping channel started in 2015 but won’t be finished for about five more years. The Port of Charleston, South
Carolina, where the big ship will head next before returning to Hong Kong, plans to start its own dredging this fall.
Overall, 15 U.S. seaports on the East and Gulf coasts are seeking $4.6 billion after being authorized by Congress to make room for bigger ships. Only three of those have cleared the permit requirements needed to start digging, said Jim Walker, navigation policy director for the American Association of Port Authorities.
Manuel Benitez, the Panama Canal Authority’s deputy administrator, said the surge in ship traffic between the U.S. East Coast and Asia has exceeded expectations since the canal opened its expanded locks last June. The authority initially thought two or three larger ships would pass through each day, he said, but the daily average has been nearly six.
The COSCO Development had to
make its 39-mile trip up the Savannah River at high tide Thursday morning to ensure it would fit. Its cargo deck was about 80 percent full, said a Georgia Ports Authority official.