By Todd Karpovich
Photography by Bill McAllen
The Evergreen Triton, with a capacity to handle 14,424 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers, visited the Port of Baltimore, becoming the largest container ship to ever visit Maryland.
The supersized ship was able to call at the Port of Baltimore because the Port’s infrastructure allows it to handle some of the largest ships in the world. The Port is further boosting capacity with the construction of a second 50-foot-deep berth set to begin in 2019.
“This was actually nine years in the making when we entered into a private-public partnership with Ports America,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) Executive Director James J. White about the arrival of the Evergreen Triton. “We knew with a new set of locks coming with the Panama Canal, bigger ships calling at the U.S. West Coast would now have the ability to get to the East Coast. So, that created a huge opportunity for all East Coast ports.
“Because we have such a huge population, we have a lot to offer to the ship owners. The Panama Canal was one part of our strategic planning for the future. The other part was we knew there was going to be consolidation in the maritime industry where we went from smaller ships and medium-sized ships to actually ship owners sharing space on ships. That’s what you see here.”
Previously, the largest container ship to visit the Port of Baltimore was the 11,000-TEU container ship Gunde Maersk, which arrived at the Port of Baltimore in October. Thanks to a public-private partnership between MDOT MPA and Ports America Chesapeake, the Port of Baltimore is one of the few ports on the East Coast to have a 50-foot-deep channel and a 50-foot-deep berth necessary to accommodate the mega-ships traveling through the recently expanded Panama Canal. Ports America Chesapeake operates Seagirt Marine Terminal, the Port’s container terminal.
The Port had a record-breaking year in 2018 when 43 million tons of international cargo was handled by the state-owned public and the privately owned marine terminals combined. That surpassed the previous high mark of 40.9 million tons in 1974.
“Thanks to Maryland’s investment in a 50-foot berth, every year we are seeing larger and larger container ships choosing the Port of Baltimore,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said. “Maryland truly is open for business. The Port of Baltimore fuels the state’s economy and supports thousands of jobs throughout the freight industry.”
In December, MDOT MPA and Ports America Chesapeake announced a $32.7 million project to develop a second 50-foot-deep container berth at Seagirt Marine Terminal. When completed, this second berth will allow the Port of Baltimore to handle two supersized container ships simultaneously. Construction on the new berth is expected to commence by the end of 2019. The berth is expected to become operational by early 2021.
“This is just the beginning for us,” White said. “These ships are going to continue to call at the U.S. East Coast ports. They are going to be common at our piers here and we are just hitting our stride.”
These infrastructure improvements have kept record amounts of cargo moving through the Port on vessels such as the Evergreen Triton, which departed Xiamen, China, on April 19. The ship passed through the Panama Canal on May 15 before arriving in Baltimore nine days later.
“We’re thrilled to see the Triton here in Baltimore after coming through the expanded Panama Canal,” said Bayard Hogans, Vice President, Ports America Chesapeake. “The partnership between the Port of Baltimore, Ports America Chesapeake and Evergreen will continue to allow the world’s largest container ships to deliver the goods and commodities that power America’s economy through Maryland. Ports America Chesapeake is committed, with continued investment and expansion, to utilizing advanced technologies and enhanced infrastructure to deliver world-class service.”
It took longshoremen just over a day to unload the Triton’s cargo, which ranged from clothes and toys to electronics and other consumer products.
“It makes sense to put the freight where the consumer is,” White said. •