The Maersk Shanghai slipped into Government Cut before dawn Wednesday and headed to its berth at PortMiami, becoming the largest container ship to ever call at a Florida port.
The 1,063-foot-long, 159-foot-wide megaship is almost the length of three football fields. Before PortMiami underwent a widening and dredging of its shipping channel from 44 feet to a depth of 50-52 feet, the Maersk Shanghai wouldn’t have been able to dock in Miami. The ship’s gross tonnage is 115,000 tons.
The port undertook its expansion project to accommodate the big ships that began transiting an expanded Panama Canal last summer, but the Liberia-flagged Maersk Shanghai arrived in Miami via the Suez Canal, which is also able to handle larger vessels. It began its journey in Xiamen, China.
“Its arrival is a milestone for PortMiami as it also makes history by being the largest cargo container ship ever to visit a Florida port. Bigger ships represent the movement of more goods in and out of the port, which translates to growth and prosperity for our economy,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
It took most of the day to unload the10,081-TEU (the equivalent of a standard 20-foot container) vessel, which arrived at PortMiami at 4 a.m. It was scheduled to leave the port at 11 p.m.
Even larger container ships are now being built. The 21,413 TEU OOCL Hong Kong is currently the world’s largest.
For PortMiami Director Juan M. Kuryla, it was a vindication of the massive investment and infrastructure improvements the port has made to enter the big-ship era. “Today we’re the only full-service port on the East Coast of the U.S. south of Virginia with a channel depth of 50-52 feet able to handle the larger Super-Post-Panamax ships,” he said.
But other East Coast ports are racing to finish improvements and start dredging projects so they also can handle fully-laden big ships. Port Everglades recently got approval from the Broward County Board of Commissioners to spend $41.4 million for three Super-Post-Panamax gantry cranes capable of plucking cargo from the wider and taller ships.
“We cannot afford to wait until our harbor deepening and widening project is completed because the cranes are needed now,” said Port Director Steve Cernak. “Cargo ships are getting larger and several shipping lines already coming to Port Everglades from Europe and South America need Super Post-Panamax cranes.”