Arrival of largest container ship ever on East Coast portends things to come for Port of Virginia

By John Reid Blackwell | Richmond Times-Dispatch

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted shipping of products worldwide, the arrival on May 23 of the largest seagoing container vessel ever in Virginia signals a new era for the Port of Virginia.

Port officials trumpeted the arrival of the CMA CGM Marco Polo in Portsmouth as the culmination of years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in the port to upgrade its capacity.

“What we expect is that this is just a continuation of a trend,” said Stephen A. Edwards, who became the CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority in January.

The Marco Polo vessel is owned by the international shipping and logistics company CMA CGM. The ship has a capacity of 16,022 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, which is roughly equivalent to 8,000 40-foot truck trailers of goods. TEUs is the unit of the capacity of a container ship.

The ship is three-and-a-half football fields long. It would be roughly the height of the Eiffel Tower if it was stood on its end.

“We think about it in terms of our customers,” said Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America. “Every one of those containers is a customer we focus on. There are over 10,000 customers on that ship.”

The Marco Polo vessel is the largest container ship ever to call on the East Coast. In addition to Hampton Roads, it made stops at the ports in New Jersey; Charleston, S.C.; and Savannah, Ga.

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