On Thursday, the Port of Savannah welcomed the largest container ship to ever call the East Coast, the 13,100 TEU COSCO Development. She is expected to offload about 2,400 containers during her call in Georgia.
“There are very few ports that can handle the size of this ship and the amount of containers that are exchanged . . . and loaded back,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch, speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The giant vessel arrived less than fully laden and transited the Savannah River at high tide in order to meet draft restrictions. Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) says that the channel and harbor must be deepened in order to reduce these limitations and attract the next generation of container ships. The authority is working on a $1 billion dredging plan to deepen the river from 42 to 47 feet, which would allow neopanamax vessels to transit with fewer restrictions. While the latest cost estimate for the plan found that it will be more expensive than originally envisioned, the economic return on investment will be high, about $7.30 per dollar spent – the best cost-benefit ratio of any harbor deepening project in the country, according to Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). The state has already paid in its initial share of the costs, and work has already begun on many parts of the project.
GPA is also looking beyond its own harbor as it plans for the future, with a new agreement to share best practices and marketing efforts with the Port of Virginia. “As our ports continue to experience record growth, it is more important than ever that Georgia and other gateway hubs begin to plan regionally for the future,” said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. The Federal Maritime Commission approved the proposal last month, allowing the two ports to coordinate on commercial opportunities regarding carriers, cargo handling and terminal operations best practices. The ports will still have to file with the FMC regarding joint discussions leading to an agreement covered under the Shipping Act.
The Seaspan-owned COSCO Development has been busy setting records in the western hemisphere this month. She became the largest vessel to pass through the new Panama Canal locks on May 1, and she became the largest vessel to call the USEC when she arrived at Port of Virginia on Monday.