The CMA CGM Brazil calls on the Port of Virginia on Tuesday morning. Handout photo

East Coast’s Largest Container Ship Ever Calls on Port of Virginia

It’s the largest container ship ever to grace the U.S. East Coast with its presence, and it’s berthed right at the Port of Virginia.

The CMA CGM Brazil lumbered into Virginia International Gateway in Norfolk Tuesday morning. At more than 1,200 feet long and nearly 170 feet wide, the container ship is more than 100 feet longer than most Navy aircraft carriers. The Brazil has a capacity of more than 15,000 units, 700 more than the Port of Virginia’s previous record.

It’s a milestone for the port, which has been steadily expanding its capacity to serve supersize cargo ships.

“We invested $800 million over the last two-and-a-half years to expand and modernize our terminals in order to handle ships of this size,” said John. F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority.

It took multiple labor shifts to handle nearly 3,300 containers of imports and exports—24 hours in all, which is about double the time most vessels stay in port.

You can expect to see more of these behemoths enter the Norfolk Harbor in the future.

“We are talking to several ocean carriers about even bigger vessels, so this
will be a good test for us. The ocean carriers have taken note of the work we are doing here and they know of our reputation for efficiency,” Reinhart says.

The next step in accommodating ships of this size, according to the port, is to dredge the Norfolk Harbor and its commercial channels. By 2024, the port will have dredged the harbor from 50 to 55 feet deep and widened the channels. When work is complete, Virginia will be the deepest port on the East Coast. When all of the improvements are complete, the port will have spent nearly $1.5 billion to prepare the port for the world’s growing vessel sizes.

-Meg Walburn Viviano