Air Cargo Quarterly
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MSC takes advantage of Virginia’s deep water as port handles another vessel needing 49.5 feet draft
When the MSC Asya sailed out of the Hampton Roads Harbor last week needing 49.5 feet of water depth under its hull it signaled a new norm for the ship’s owner, Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC), and The Port of Virginia. Since 2012 MSC has regularly been sailing vessels that test the depth limit of the shipping channels that serve The Port of Virginia. The vessels, all of which are part of the ocean carrier’s Golden Gate Service, are in excess of 9,000 TEUs. Moreover, Virginia is the last US East Coast port call for these massive vessels that head back to Asia upon exiting the Chesapeake Bay. “MSC is using Virginia’s deep water to the company’s advantage and has been doing so for more than a year,” said Rodney W. Oliver, the Virginia Port Authority’s interim executive director. “They load these ships as heavy as they can with exports and to allow those goods – American-made goods – to reach their foreign destination as quickly as possible because the ship is headed directly back to Asia. In short, MSC is maximizing the economics of operating its big ships by taking full advantage of our deep water.” In 2011, the 1,100-foot-long MSC Bruxelles became the largest container vessel to ever call The Port of Virginia. Since that time, the MSC Roma, Chicago and Asya have all needed more than 48 feet of draft for their return trips across the ocean. “We are expecting other ocean carriers that call Virginia to begin using our water depth to their advantage as well,” Oliver said. “The forecast was that these ships would not be introduced into the East Coast trade lane until the Panama Canal was completed, but the reality is that we’re seeing the trend years ahead of that forecast, and because of our channel depth, Virginia is the port of choice on the East Coast.” The port rotation of the Golden Gate Service is: Hong Kong, Chiwan, Yantian, Shanghai, Ningbo, Singapore, Salalah, Suez Canal transit, New York, Norfolk, Baltimore, Savannah, Freeport (Bahamas), Charleston, Norfolk, Suez Canal transit, Jeddah, Colombo, Singapore, Chiwan and back to Hong Kong.
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