Savannah Port to see biggest cargo ship to ever dock on East Coast

May 11, 2017
Arnulfo Franco/AP
The Neopanamax Cosco Development cargo ship sails in Gatun Lake as it lines up to make it through Agua Clara locks on the newly expanded Canal in, Panama, Tuesday, May, 2, 2017. The Cosco Development is the biggest ship that has gone through the expanded Canal since its inauguration on June 2016. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

The biggest container ship to ever dock at an East Coast port is expected to slowly churn up the Savannah River Thursday to call on the state’s sprawling seaport.

The Cosco Development, a vessel that’s longer than a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, will pull into the Port of Savannah at high tide on a mission to off-load and on-load thousands of shipping containers, according to the Georgia Ports Authority.

The Development’s visit, state leaders say, portends the wave of bigger ships to come with the expansion of the Panama Canal and as crews deepen the Savannah River to allow for more flexibility for super-sized freighters.

The container ship COSCO Development, which arrived at the Port of Virginia overnight, sits docked at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Va., Monday, May 8, 2017. The COSCO Development, the biggest ship to ever call on the East Coast, pulled into the port Monday and will head out early Tuesday morning. (Kristen Zeis/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Photo: Kristen Zeis/AP

During that visit, ports crews are expected to off-load about 2,400 twenty-foot equivalent unit containers and reload the ship with about 2,400 containers that will send goods from Georgia and other Southeastern states overseas, said Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch. 

“There are very few ports that can handle the size of this ship and the amount of containers that are exchanged … and loaded back,” Lynch said. 

Governor Deal inks contract that allows bigger ships into Savannah Harbor

The Development made its first East Coast port call in Virginia this week, and will depart from Savannah for Charleston before venturing to Asia, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.  

Ships such as the Development are so large they must traverse the Savannah River at high tide. The price tag to dredge and deepen the Savannah River from 42 feet to 47 feet to allow such super-freighters to navigate more frequently, recently climbed to nearly $1 billion, but state and federal leaders say the payback to taxpayers for that investment will also be greater to the economy than previously estimated.

Ports officials say the Development won’t be fully loaded to its capacity of more than 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units when it arrives. 

Look for upcoming coverage of the ship’s arrival on Thursday at and On Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal will play host to an event at the port to welcome the ship. 

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