Port of Savannah welcomes largest cargo ship on East Coast

The container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo sails up river past the historic River Street to the Port of Savannah.
The container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo sails up river past the historic River Street to the Port of Savannah. (AP photo/Stephen B. Morton))

SAVANNAH, Ga. – The largest container ship to ever call on the U.S. East Coast arrived Wednesday at the Port of Savannah.

Onlookers along Savannah’s downtown riverfront gawked as the CMA CGM Marco Polo sailed past Wednesday morning on its way to dock at the port, the fourth-busiest in the U.S. for cargo shipped in containers.

The supersized ocean carrier is as long as three-and-a-half football fields. Its cargo can fill more than 16,000 metal containers measuring 20 feet (6.1 meters) long apiece.

“Georgia and Savannah continue to be and will be on the map as a global gateway,” Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, told reporters ahead of the giant ship’s arrival.

The Marco Polo arrived in Savannah after making stops in New Jersey and Virginia. After unloading cargo in Savannah, the vessel will head to Charleston, South Carolina.

Ports along the U.S. East Coast have raced in recent years to deepen their shipping channels to make room for larger ships like the Marco Polo. Savannah is in the home stretch of a $973 million harbor expansion that began in 2015.

Even with the deepening project unfinished, the Port of Savannah has seen explosive growth.

The Georgia Ports Authority says Savannah is on track to exceed 5 million container units of imports and exports moving across its docks in the fiscal year that ends June 30. It’s been just four years since Savannah surpassed 4 million for the first time.