Another Step Forward for Port as it Welcomes Record-Breaking Box Ship to Virginia International Gateway

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CMA CGM Marco Polo is Nearly 1,300 Feet Long, Carries 16K-Plus TEUs

NORFOLK, VA – The biggest container ship to ever come to the U.S. East Coast, the CMA CGM Marco Polo, called The Port of Virginia® this week and in doing so set a new record for the biggest container ship to date to call Virginia.

The vessel’s capacity is 16,022 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. The new record eclipses the mark set just last month by a container vessel that has the capacity to handle 15,072 TEUs.

“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. “It’s customers like CMA CGM that understand the value of what is taking place here: capability, efficiency, fluidity and customer service.”

* For photographs of the vessel arriving in the Norfolk Harbor click here; for videos, click here and enter this password: wxyBQW9jhyVW.

“At CMA CGM, we deliver the goods that keep America moving,” said Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM and APL North America. “The deployment of the CMA CGM Marco Polo is a tangible example of our agility and dedication to supporting our customers’ growing needs during an unprecedented time in our industry. 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.”

On Sunday morning, a ship pilot from the Virginia Pilot Association safely guided the nearly 1,300-foot-long vessel through the Norfolk Harbor to Virginia International Gateway. On Monday The Port of Virginia’s leadership team hosted leaders from CMA CGM America, the Virginia secretary of transportation, elected officials, cargo owners and port partners to recognize the historic ship call. The vessel departed Monday afternoon.

“This vessel’s size highlights the importance of our channel widening and deepening project,” Edwards said. “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.”

Shippers, cargo owners, shipping lines and ports want to maximize the economics of the big ships and load them to capacity.

“Today, as The Port of Virginia welcomes the largest container ship to call the East Coast of the United States, we are witnessing Virginia’s economy in action,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon R. Valentine. 

CMA CGM is a France-based international ocean carrier serving 19 US ports with 34 services and 93 weekly port calls. The Marco Polo is sailing on the company’s Columbus JAX service, travelling from South Asia to the East Coast of America.

Big-ship history at The Port of Virginia:

  • April 2021: MSC Virgo, 15,072
  • September 2020: CMA CGM Brazil, 15,072 TEUs
  • August 2017: CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt, 14,400 TEUs
  • June 2017: OOCL France, 13,208 TEUs
  • May 2017: COSCO Development, 13,092 TEUs
  • August 2016: APL Yangshan, 10,700 TEUs
  • July 2016: MOL Benefactor, 10,000 TEUs
  • March 2012: MSC Roma, 9,200 TEUs