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CMA CGM Marco Polo Sets New Records at U.S. East Coast Ports

CMA CGM Marco Polo
Image courtesy Georgia Ports Authority

Published May 26, 2021 9:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

 The largest container ship to call on the U.S. East Coast is making her way south. After a historic call at the Port of Virginia, the 16,000 TEU CMA CGM Marco Polo arrived at the Port of Savannah on Wednesday. The terminal deployed seven STS cranes and hundreds of longshoremen to load and unload about 6,000 TEU of cargo from the ship in a single call.

The CMA CGM Marco Polo is 1,300 feet long and more than 175 feet wide. She is deployed on the AWE3 service, connecting the U.S. East Coast and Asia via the Suez Canal.

“In my seven years serving on the port authority board, it has been gratifying to see Savannah step up to the plate and increase its capacity, infrastructure and workforce to accommodate massive vessels like the Marco Polo,” said outgoing GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight, who took a ride aboard the ship on her way up the channel. “There is a reason Garden City Terminal has become the hub for global commerce in the Southeastern U.S. - 30 cranes, nearly 10,000 feet of contiguous dock space, and a 1,345-acre container yard.”

With the longest single container terminal dock in the U.S., GPA was scheduled to work five other vessels at the same time as the CMA CGM Marco Polo on Wednesday. To further expand the port's ability to serve vessels in the Marco Polo’s class, GPA has started construction to straighten a bend at the terminal's Berth 1. This will allow the Port of Savannah to accommodate four 16,000 TEU vessels at one time, plus three additional ships. The renovations will add an estimated one million TEU per year of berth capacity by 2023.

On Monday, the Marco Polo called at Port of Virginia, setting a new container ship size record for the port in the process. "The $800 million that has been invested to expand and modernize our port enhances our ability to safely and efficiently handle vessels of this size, and bigger, and their increasing cargo loads," said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. "This vessel’s size highlights the importance of our channel widening and deepening project. By 2024, Virginia will have the widest, deepest and safest commercial channels and harbor on the US East Coast."

The previous record-holder at Port of Virginia was the 15,000 TEU MSC Virgo, which called last month. Five years ago, the record stood at just 10,000 TEU - a marker of how rapidly U.S. ports have expanded capacity.