First Ultra-Large Containership Call Kicks Off ‘Big Ship Era’ for Port of New York and New Jersey

bayonne bridge big ships
The 14,414 TEU CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt passes underneath the Bayonne Bridge, September 7, 2017. Photo: Port of New York and New Jersey

The 14,400 TEU capacity CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt became the largest container ship to ever call at the port of New York and New Jersey on Thursday after sailing underneath the raised Bayonne Bridge.

The ultra-large containership arrived at the APM Terminals Elizabeth container terminal after setting the record as the first ‘big ship’ to pass under the raised Bayonne Bridge, which now gives air draft clearance to vessels of up to 18,000 TEU capacity.

The Port Authority’s $1.6 billion Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project, completed in June, raised the bridge roadbed from 151 feet to 215 feet (65.5 meters), allowing ultra-large container ships (ULCVs) like the Theodore Roosevelt to call terminals on the Newark Bay on the New Jersey side of the port’s inner harbor.

Prior to the project, containerships calling the port were mainly of the 5,000-8,000 TEU size class. 

ULCVs are categorized as having capacity to transport more than 14,000 twenty-foot containers (TEU), and some can carry upwards of 18,000 (a few even have 21,000 TEU capacity).

“The ships of the future are here today and we want to recognize the Port of NY/NJ, CMA CGM and our APM Terminals Elizabeth team for bringing the future to the present,” said APM Terminals Chief Commercial Officer Henrik Lundgaard Pedersen. “We are proud to play a central role in helping our customers keep pace with the changing needs of the shipping industry and investing in the port infrastructure essential to port productivity and the supply chains of the future.”

The CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt was invited by the Port Authority to formally inaugurate the raised Bayonne Bridge as part of its maiden voyage to the US east coast from Asia.

During the voyage, the ship also set the record as the largest capacity vessel to pass through the Expanded Panama Canal on August 22, followed by it setting the record as largest ship to visit the U.S. east coast when it arrived at the port of Norfolk on August 28. The Expanded Panama Canal opened to ships of up to 14,000+change TEU in June 2016.  

The CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt is deployed on the Ocean Alliance South Atlantic Express (SAX) service, which connects Asia and U.S. East Coast ports of Norfolk, Savannah and Charleston via the Panama Canal. The SAX service includes 11 vessels ranging in size from 11,000 to 14,000 TEUs.

“Today, more than 10 years of planning, foresight and investment by Governor Christie, the Port Authority and its team have made our port big ship ready,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “This agency clearly recognized the importance the port plays in the regional economy and invested billions to raise the Bayonne Bridge, deepen port channels, build on-dock rail infrastructure and enhance port roadways, all to ensure we remain the leading East Coast destination for international shippers.”

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest container port on the U.S. East Coast. So far this year the port is experiencing record cargo volume growth in the first six months of 2017, with cargo volume rising 4.4 percent compared to the former six-month record set in 2015.