Bon voyage, Cosco Development

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, May 11, 2017

Big ships are surely not an uncommon sight in Hampton Roads, home of the world’s largest natural deep-water harbor and the only place in the United States where aircraft carriers, those behemoths of military sea power, are built.

But a ship that left the Virginia International Gateway, just across the Suffolk border in Portsmouth, on Tuesday, dwarfs all other ships that have sailed the Hampton Roads harbor, and that’s a great thing for Suffolk.

At 1,200 feet long and 158 feet wide, the Cosco Development, a container ship that made Virginia its first stop in an inaugural visit to the East Coast, is more than 100 feet longer than the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford.

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The Cosco Development can carry 13,092 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. That is 3,000 more than the MOL Benefactor, which was the Port of Virginia record-holder for TEU capacity when it arrived at Norfolk International Terminals last summer.

What that means for Suffolk is a huge potential increase in the number of shipping containers that can be unloaded and hauled to distribution centers in the city. Companies with distribution centers in Suffolk — like Peet’s Coffee, Ace Hardware and Target — rely on the ports in Hampton Roads to get their products into the hands of East Coast customers, and their Suffolk warehousing and distribution centers have become key parts of their distribution chains.

In fact, one company with a local distribution center had more than 200 loads on the Cosco vessel, according to port officials, who hope that success with this big cargo ship will lead to more visits by this new class of vessel and more customers using such vessels to bring cargo into Hampton Roads.

Suffolk has established itself as a linchpin in the warehousing and distribution sector. This visit by the Cosco Development bodes well for the city’s continued growth as a powerhouse of supply-chain management.

Bon voyage!