The transportation of cargo across the world is a huge industry: in 2012, an estimated $6.4 trillion worth of cargo was moved via air freight cargo companies. While American air cargo is favored for time-sensitive shipments (such as produce and other perishable foods), ocean cargo shipping is relied on for the movement of large quantities of cargo, and for good reason — container ships can hold around 1,000 40-foot containers, each bearing 25 to 30 tons of goods.
However, as the industry continues to expand, so too do the ships and equipment involved. For example, the largest ocean cargo vessel is the Hong Kong-registered CSCL Globe and measures more than 1,312 feet in length; the colossal ship can hold around 19,000 standard containers. With ocean shipping companies pushing the boundaries of what can be done in ocean freight transport, they need the accompanying equipment to keep up. That’s why the largest shipping cranes have arrived in the United States.
Towering at 170 feet (52 meters) tall, the Chinese-made gantry cranes stand far above the ship that carried them through the Port of Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay. Officials are saying they’re likely the largest the nation has ever seen.
“Having these cranes sail into our harbor says, very clearly, to the ocean carriers and the industry that we are prepared for the next evolution and the one to come after that,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority.
International ocean shipping companies have created a sort of arms race among ports across the country; since they’re using fewer but bigger ships, they will only be able to stop — and bring profit — to the ports that can accommodate their monstrous size. Projects include dredging deeper channels in Georgia and South Carolina, and even elevating bridges to allow access to New York City-area ports. The cargo often includes electronics, furniture, and automobile parts from all across the globe, traveling onwards to cities such as Louisville and Chicago after being delivered at a port.
The cranes are expected to be fully operational within two months, contributing to an ongoing expansion-and-dredging project at the Port of Virginia.