Virginia just received four of the “nation’s largest” ship-to-shore cranes on Monday to operate at the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads, marking the most recent effort for the international port to accommodate bigger container ships in their expansion project. Standing 170 feet tall, the Chinese-made cranes made their way through the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay as many captured photos of the leviathans, with officials from the Virginia Port Authority set to service the higher-volume Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) currently calling on the port as trade on the Virginia coast had a record-setting year in 2018.
Recent port expansions at the Panama Canal have increased the usage of larger container ships between the Eastern Hemisphere and the East Coast of the U.S. As the cranes should be up and running in Portsmouth in March, they will join four new truck gates at Virginia International Gateway (VIG) as part of a $320 million project to increase capacity and efficiency at the terminal, according to a report.
The VIG project is part of a $700-million expansion of the Port of Virginia’s two primary container-handling terminals, the other being Norfolk International Terminals (NIT).
The new cranes will be able to reach across a vessel that is 26 containers wide, three to four containers wider than most cranes.
“Having these cranes sail into our harbor says, very clearly, to the ocean carriers and the industry that we are prepared for the next evolution and the one to come after that,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority in a report from AP.
Luckily, the type of Chinese crane the Port of Virginia purchased was taken off the Trump Administration’s tariff list. The port had approved $40 million in spending for the cranes, with the proposed 25 percent tariff meaning that cost overruns could have exceeded $10 million for which it was not originally budgeted.
Nevertheless, as battle between other domestic ports is underway to attract the most shipping traffic – with dredging occurring in Georgia and South Carolina and bridge elevations in New York City – officials in Virginia will work to dredge Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet and widen the entrance channel to the port to 1,300 feet to host larger container ships. The plan was released last January by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, part of the president’s infrastructure program.