Only weeks since the Panama Canal expansion was completed and ships again started passing through the legendary waterway. Before the historic reopening, 100 neo-Panamax vessels had reservations for commercial transit through the locks, which are wider than the old ones, 180 feet vs. 110 feet, and are deeper, too, at 60 feet vs. 42 feet.
The ability to move supersize ships through the Panama Canal has given rise to concerns about which U.S. ports will be able to handle the massive vessels. As the Panama Canal can greatly reduce the cost of shipping cargo from Asia to the U.S. west coast and then onto the eastern U.S., many east coast ports are preparing to accept neo-Panamax ships. Cargo arriving on the west coast can cost over $2000 to rail move to the east coast. The cost is closer to $600 (with fewer chances for port delays that frequent the west coast) when a ship docks at an east coast port and moves by truck to the destination.
The MOL Benefactor, which passed through the expanded Panama Canal on July 1st, called the Port of Norfolk on July 11th, arriving from the Port of New York. With a capacity of 10,000 TEUs, the Benefactor is the first neo-Panamax to traverse the canal and the largest ship ever to call the Port of Virginia at 1,105’ long and 158’ wide.
Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander says, “Our port is one of the preferred ports because of the ability to get goods to the marketplace faster as well as to ship from our ports to other global markets,” Alexander said. “[This is] a testament to the trade and business climate here in Virginia and our port, and we look forward to more of those ships coming to the Port of Virginia.”