At nearly 1,300 feet long, CMA CGM Marco Polo is the largest container ship ever to visit the East Coast. Handout photo.

Port of Va. Hosts East Coast’s Largest-Ever Container Ship

The Port of Virginia is enjoying a milestone: it has now hosted the biggest container ship ever to come to the U.S. East Coast. This week the CMA CGM Marco Polo called on Virginia International Gateway (VIG). The Marco Polo is nearly 1,300 feet long and can carry 16,022 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

It was quite a job for the marine pilot from the Virginia Pilot Association who safely guided the ship through Norfolk Harbor to VIG on Sunday. The ship’s call was made possible by the Port of Virginia’s major investments in port expansion. “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.

The port is responding to the growing trend in supersize cargo ships. Shipping lines want to maximize the economics of these big ships and load them to capacity.

“At CMA CGM, we deliver the goods that keep America moving,” said Ed Aldridge, president of CMA
CGM and APL North America. “Breaking the East Coast’s big-ship record wouldn’t be possible without partners
like The Port of Virginia who have made timely infrastructure investments that enable us to
proactively serve our customers.”

The France-based ocean carrier CMA CGM serves 19 U.S. ports. The Port of Virginia wants to make sure shippers like CMA CGM are repeat customers, as its large-scale expansion continues:

“By 2024, Virginia will have the widest, deepest and safest commercial channels and
harbor on the US East Coast. Our channels will be 55 feet deep and wide enough for safe passage of two-way traffic of vessels this size and bigger. Our target depth will create the necessary bottom clearance for these ships to load heavy and safely without tidal restrictions,” Edwards says.

The Marco Polo, which runs a route to the U.S. East Coast from South Asia, departed Norfolk Monday afternoon.