January 16, 2022

The US is spending billions of dollars deepening port harbors to make room for ‘mega’ container ships that are only getting bigger

The Ever Ace, the world’s largest cargo ship, is as long as four football fields and can carry over 23,000 containers.

Container ships like this one have more than doubled in size over the past decade. While the massive vessels can hold more Amazon orders than you can imagine, the rapid growth presents a problem for US ports — the ships can’t fit into most harbors.

In response, the Army Corp of Engineers has allocated billions of dollars to deepen ports across the US.

From Massachusetts to Alabama, officials say ports must accommodate supersized ship dimensions in order to remain competitive in global trade.

At The Port of New York and New Jersey, a $2.1 billion harbor-deepening project freed up access to “post-panamax” ships, the name for mega ships too large to travel through the Panama Canal.

The vessels’ larger-than-life size may be contributing to the supply-chain crisis that’s caused record-breaking backlogs at US ports, one expert told Insider.

“Part of the problem is the ships are double or triple the size of the ships we were seeing 10 or 15 years ago,” Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, said. “They take longer to unload. You need more trucks, more trains, more warehouses to put the cargo.”

Proponents of harbor-deepening projects like New York’s point to the benefits port economies have on local job markets. Other dredging proposals like North Carolina’s $834 million Wilmington Harbor Navigation Improvement Project face pushback over environmental concerns.