The Panama Canal expansion Project has for several years resulted in US East Coast container ports licking their lips at the prospect of larger container ships bringing traditional west coast cargo volumes closer to the ultimate major consumers in the Eastern United States. The first neo-Panamax container ship eventually transited the expanded Canal in June 2016 and despite intense competition from the Suez Canal, the number of larger container vessels now taking advantage of the Panama Canal to access the East Coast is expanding. Earlier this month the 13,092 TEU capacity COSCO Development, called at the ports of Virginia, Savannah and Charleston in that sequence.
Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), Ulsan, South Korea in 2011
Owned and managed by Seaspan Shipmanagement Ltd. Vancouver
GRT 141,823 tons
DWT 140,609 MT
Capacity 13,092 TEU
Registered in Hong Kong
Up until last week's transit of the OOCL France with 116 more TEUs, the COSCO Development was the largest vessel to utilize the expanded canal in connecting Asia with the US East Coast. The Panama Canal reported in April that it had already welcomed its 1,000th Neo-Panamax vessel through the waterway. The container sector accounts for nearly half the transits through the expanded canal and represents its principal source of both traffic and revenue. It is estimated that 53% of container vessel cargo transiting the waterway does so now using the expanded canal. LNG carriers also began using the expanded canal in July 2016 with the volume of these vessels now up to five per week. We also have to mention the Vancouver based Disney Wonder for the Alaska cruise season which at the end of April became the first large cruise ship to use the expanded canal’s new locks.
COSCO Development, seen above entering the port of Savannah, is operating on the Ocean Alliance South Atlantic Express service which connects the East Coast ports with Hong Kong, Yantian, Ningbo and Shanghai. Ocean Alliance members are China COSCO Shipping, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), CMA CGM and Evergreen Line.
As the first port of discharge, COSCO Development was taking full advantage of the Port of Virginia’s $670 million investment in a 15.2m navigation channel which equals the new maximum draft of the expanded Panama Canal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fiscal Year 17 Work Plan includes funding for harbor improvement (dredging) projects at the Ports of Charleston ($17.5m), Jacksonville (17.5m) and Savannah ($42.7m). Charleston will also benefit from $300m in state funding. Overall, it is estimated that approximately $4.6 billion is needed at East and Gulf coast ports to remedy pinch points in harbor infrastructure.
Ship of the Week contributed by Captain Stephen Brown, West Pacific Marine Ltd.