Container ship poised to set Port of Charleston record
The title for largest container ship to visit the Port of Charleston is about to change hands — under the cover of darkness. The OOCL France is set to to take that accolade this weekend, supplanting the COSCO Development which sailed into Charleston Harbor on the Saturday morning of Mother’s Day weekend. The 1,202-foot-long France can carry up to 13,926 cargo boxes — about 830 more than the Development’s maximum load.
The France is scheduled to arrive at Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant around 11 p.m. Saturday, with workers moving cargo on and off starting at 7 a.m. Sunday.
The ship is expected to leave the Port of Charleston later that night, also in the dark. Owned by Orient Overseas Container Line, the France is part of the weekly South Atlantic Express service by Ocean Alliance vessels that represent the largest now traveling through the expanded Panama Canal. Those ships, carrying between 11,550 and 13,000 containers per trip, originate in Hong Kong and visit ports in Norfolk, Va., and Savannah before a last stop in Charleston before heading back overseas.
Shipping lines are using bigger vessels, like the France, so they can move more cargo on fewer ships. And maritime ports along the East Coast are investing enormous sums to accommodate them. The State Ports Authority, for example, is spending more than £1.5 billion on infrastructure improvements to keep the big ships coming to Charleston.
That includes a £530 million project to deepen Charleston Harbor to 52 feet, giving the port the deepest navigation channel on the East Coast and allowing the big ships to visit without tide restrictions.
With federal dollars set aside for the project last month, dredging will begin later this year and should wrap up in 2019 when a new container terminal opens on the former Navy Base in North Charleston.