CMA CMG Theodore Roosevelt breaks numerous records on its voyage to the U.S. East Coast

October 10, 2017

Records all over the U.S. East Coast have been broken over the past several months after the largest ship to ever transit through the Panama Canal, the CMA CMG Theodore Roosevelt, navigated its way through on August 22nd. Since its official opening on June 26, 2016, the Panama Canal Expansion has prompted an influx of cargo ships into the East Coast, with the expansion permitting much bigger cargo vessels to transit from Asia to eastern U.S. ports.

Starting its voyage from Asia on July 26, 2017, The Roosevelt began its rotation on the South Atlantic Express Service (SAX) from Hong Kong to Shanghai, before making its way to the Panama Canal and onto the U.S. East Coast. At 1,204-foot-long, four times bigger than the Statue of Liberty and four times longer than an American football field, the impressive cargo ship can carry up to 14,885 20-foot containers and is now the largest ship to have stopped over on the East Coast, beating the previous record set in 2015 by its sibling vessel the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin.

CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt transiting through the Panama CanalCMG CMA Theodore Roosevelt transiting through the Panama Canal, digital image, viewed 28 September 2017, <>.

When following its journey from Savannah to New York then on to Charleston, it is hard not to notice the significant enhancements that are being made to ports and waterways up and down the entire coastline.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project

After calling at the Port of Virginia on the August 28th, the colossal ship waited out some stormy weather before arriving at the Port of Savannah on the September 1st. As the nation’s fastest growing and fourth-busiest container port, Neopanamax ships are becoming the norm for Savannah. With the ever-increasing size of cargo ships and the continued popularity of a port that offers direct interstate access, on-terminal rail, near-port distribution centres and a location that is 100 miles closer to Atlanta than any other port, an expansion project was always inevitable. So in 2014, after 15 years of study, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) was eventually given the green light by all relevant governmental agencies.

Vessel being loaded and unloaded at Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal, near SavannahA vessel is loaded and unloaded at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal near Savannah, GA, digital image, viewed 28 September 2017, <>.

The project is expected to save consumers and shippers millions of dollars every year.

The SHEP will deepen the 18.5-mile outer harbor from 42 feet to 49 feet and the Savannah River channel to 47 feet, allowing it to accommodate larger vessels with fewer weight and tidal restrictions. Dredging works finally began on the outer harbor in September 2015 with many other phases of the construction well underway. Although initially estimated for completion in 2020, at a cost of $706 million, the US Army Corps of Engineers advised earlier this year that both the timeline and budget have increased dramatically. It is now expected to cost $973 million, 38 percent more than the original estimate, with the completion date extended to January 2022. However, there is some good news with the cost savings for consumers and shippers also projected to increase from $174 million per year to $282 million per year.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, believes that the good outweighs the bad. “You never want to see the cost of anything go up, but I think ultimately the bottom line is the payback to the nation has improved at almost double the rate of the cost,” he said while speaking to “This project is now more attractive than it was before. Yes, there is more money needed for it, but if we’re truly looking for projects that will have a meaningful payback to the nation, this is the project.”

The Roosevelt is not the first ship to break the Port of Savannah’s record this year, in May it welcomed the Cosco Development, which at the time was the largest ship to call at East Coast ports. In the three months following, the port has hosted 13 vessels with a capacity of 13,000 TEUs or greater and this number is anticipated to keep growing at rapid speeds.

The Inauguration of the Bayonne Bridge

Continuing its journey north, The Roosevelt made its way to New York for the inauguration of the newly modified Bayonne Bridge. The bridge, which spans the Kill Van Kull connecting Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York City, has always limited the size of ships that can call at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Until the arrival of the CMA CMG Theodore Roosevelt this month, the record for the largest vessel to call at New York was 9,600 TEUs. Anticipating an increase in the number of ultra-large container ships, the Port Authority implemented a plan for raising the bridge, as well as a modernization project for the port terminals.

CMA CGM sailing underneath the Bayonne BridgeCMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt sailing underneath the Bayonne Bridge,digital image, viewed 23 October 2017, <>.

Construction on the bridge began in 2013 after the project received fast-track environmental review status and a federal permit from the U.S. Coast Guard. The $1.6 billion project, raised the bridge roadbed by 64 feet to 215 feet and the new navigational clearance was achieved on June 30, 2017. This new height will allow ships of up to 18,000 TEU to pass underneath, so it will certainly only be a matter of time before the record set by The Roosevelt is beaten.

A greater choice of shipping services will reduce both transit times and costs.

Ports all the way up and down the East Coast have been keeping a close eye on the progress of the project as the opening of the bridge is expected to increase the flow of larger ships which would have previously been destined for West Coast ports. This is not only great news for the ports themselves but also for shippers and consumers in the east, who will now have a greater choice of shipping services helping to dramatically reduce both transit times and costs.

To ensure the port terminals are ready for the next generation of cargo vessels that can now enter the port, further construction works are being completed. These works include a $2.1 billion, 50-foot navigation channel deepening project, four new gantry cranes, a state-of-the-art truck gate complex and investment in on-dock rail projects.

The Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Project

Its final port of call, before heading back to its home base in Asia, was at the Port of Charleston on September 14th. The Roosevelt was originally scheduled to call at Charleston on September 1st, before heading to New York, however, was delayed by two weeks due to bad weather caused by Hurricane Irma. The arrival coincided with the announcement that the first dredging contract had been awarded for the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Project.

Charleston harbor deepening project, digital image, viewed 28 September 2017, <>.

Charleston harbor will become the deepest on the U.S. East Coast.

The project, which has been in the works since 2010, will increase the depth of the federal channel to 52 feet, as well as widening areas for turning basins. The project is expected to take between 40 and 76 months to complete depending on full-funding, dredge availability, weather and various other factors. It is anticipated that the upgrade will help the port to attract larger, heavier cargo vessels that are becoming increasingly common in the global maritime industry.

Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO recently expressed his enthusiasm for the project and the arrival of The Roosevelt, “The first dredging contract awarded for harbor deepening is outstanding news for SCPA and the State of South Carolina, and the arrival of the biggest ship ever to call our port … is a timely and visible example of the importance of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project” he said. “By the end of the decade, we will achieve 52 feet of depth and be the deepest harbor on the East Coast, a depth advantage that will add significant capability in the Southeast, the fastest growing port region in the country.”


Freightplus’ presence in the U.S.A.

Freightplus has a significant presence in the USA with staff located in Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Colorado. With extensive experience in transporting mining and construction machinery, project cargo and an array of other oversized and heavy-lift cargo, the potential for larger vessels to call at ports up and down the coastline is something we are very excited about. These ongoing and future expansion projects will help to give us greater flexibility on the services we can offer our customers and will enable us to reduce transit times and keep costs down.

Each of our offices on the U.S. East Coast have their own areas of expertise within the freight forwarding industry, which means our customers get the best advice, price and service from their own dedicated and experienced Freightplus representative.


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