The newly built 14,400 TEU container ship CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt will be the designated inaugural vessel for the raised Bayonne Bridge at the Port of New York & New Jersey when she arrives in early September. The Roosevelt takes her name from America's 26th president, who was a native New Yorker and served as the governor of New York State.
The Roosevelt entered commercial service on July 26 on CMA CGM's South Atlantic Express route. It became the largest container ship to transit the Panama Canal on August 22, and will call Norfolk, Savannah and Charleston on her way north to New York. She will be the largest vessel ever to call the East Coast; her sister ship CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin famously became the largest vessel to call in the United States in 2015 when she arrived at the Port of Los Angeles.
PNYNJ's Bayonne Bridge was built in 1931, well before the advent of today's taller, deeper-draft ships. With the New Panama Canal complete and the decades-long harbor deepening project for New York's harbor finished, the bridge was the final choke point for access to container terminals at Port Elizabeth and Port Newark. Contractors completed a years-long "Raise the Roadway" project earlier this year, lifting the span's air draft restriction from 150 feet to 215 feet. In mid-July, the 13,200 TEU OOCL Berlin became the largest container ship to transit under the bridge and call at PNYNJ.
Coincidentally, the bridge raising will facilitate the deployment of 10,000-plus TEU vessels in the broader East Coast market. PNYNJ is the busiest port on the Eastern seaboard, and it is a linchpin for any service string between the USEC and Asia. Without access to New York, Neopanamax vessel services to other East Coast ports were less economical, even though these ports were already "big ship ready."
“New York is one of the main gateways to the Midwest and eastern Canada,” said Angel Mavares, head of marine operations for the Americas at Maersk, speaking at a conference last year. “It’s a major obstacle if the largest market on the East Coast doesn’t have the scale to handle larger ships." Now that PNYNJ’s air draft restrictions have been lifted, the larger vessels will offer greater commercial advantages.