The Port of Savannah has announced it served the largest vessel to ever call the US East Coast on 26 May. The 16,000TEU container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo docked at the Port of Savannah’s Berth 9, which is the largest single container facility in North America.

A team of logistics professionals tackled the CMA CGM vessel with seven ship-to-shore cranes and hundreds of men and women on the ground and aboard the vessel to load and unload an estimated 6,000 TEUs of cargo, according to a statement.

“In my seven years serving on the port authority board, it has been gratifying to see Savannah step up to the plate and increase its capacity, infrastructure and workforce to accommodate massive vessels like the Marco Polo,” said outgoing Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) board chairman, Will McKnight.

With the longest single container terminal dock in the US, GPA was scheduled to work five other vessels simultaneous to the CMA CGM Marco Polo on Wednesday, 26 May.

To expand the Port of Savannah’s ability to serve vessels in the Marco Polo’s class, GPA has started construction to straighten a bend at Berth 1 of Garden City Terminal. This will allow the Port of Savannah to simultaneously serve four 16,000TEU vessels, as well as three additional ships. Berth 1 renovations will add an estimated 1 million TEU per year of berth capacity by 2023.

“Cargo fluidity is key to providing world-class service to shipping line and cargo owner customers, which is why we are also doubling our rail capacity at Garden City Terminal,” said GPA executive director, Griff Lynch.

The CMA CGM Marco Polo, built in 2012, is 396 metres long and more than 53 metres wide. The vessel is deployed on the AWE3/Columbus service, which connects the US East Coast and Asia via the Suez Canal, with cross-Pacific links to the US West Coast. The AWE3/Columbus service includes 19 vessels ranging in size from 10,000 TEU to 16,000 TEU.

In other improvements to better accommodate big ships, the GPA Board approved in November the purchase of eight new ship-to-shore cranes. The new machines will replace six older models, bringing Savannah’s fleet to 38. The eight taller cranes are timed to arrive in 2023, coinciding with the completion of the Berth 1 renovations.