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Charleston next up for visit from largest cargo ship ever

The Cosco Development, the largest container ship to ever call on an East Coast port, crosses under the Talmadge Memorial Bridge en route to the Garden City Terminal on the Savannah River on Thursday.
The Cosco Development, the largest container ship to ever call on an East Coast port, crosses under the Talmadge Memorial Bridge en route to the Garden City Terminal on the Savannah River on Thursday. TNS

After a stop in Savannah, Ga., the largest cargo ship ever to visit ports on the U.S. East Coast is headed next to South Carolina.

On Saturday, the COSCO Development is set to visit the Port of Charleston, passing under the Ravenel Bridge at about 9:45 a.m. on its way to the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, the Post & Courier of Charleston reported.

It’s then headed back to Asia, departing Sunday evening, the paper reported. The mammoth ship won’t be making a North Carolina stop.

The ship, which is longer than the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier, arrived Thursday at the Port of Savannah after cruising past dozens of onlookers who cheered and took photos of the huge vessel.

The ship’s first East Coast voyage marks a new era for U.S. ports that, despite years spent anticipating the supersized ships, will struggle to accommodate them without major infrastructure improvements.

The Port of Virginia, where the ship docked earlier this week, is one of only four East Coast ports with the desired 50 feet of depth at low tide. A $973 million deepening of Savannah’s shipping channel started in 2015 but won’t be finished for about five more years. The Port of Charleston plans to start its own dredging this fall.

At 1,200 feet bow-to-stern, the COSCO Development is longer than the Statue of Liberty and Washington Monument combined. It can carry 13,000 cargo containers measuring 20 feet long apiece.

In North Carolina, the state’s container port in Wilmington can’t yet accommodate ships of that size, although it has been expanding.

Last summer, the North Carolina State Ports Authority completed a project to widen the Cape Fear River to handle cargo ships with 10,000 containers, said ports authority spokesman Cliff Pyron. Before the expansion, the biggest ships the port could handle had 4,500 containers.

“We are having a feasibility study done with the Army Corp of Engineers to see if we can essentially deepen (the port) in the future to accommodate those bigger ships,” Pyron said.

The Associated Press contributed

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