- The Port of Virginia is seeking to further dredge its harbor, from 50 to 55 feet, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
- Officials at the port are concerned that the recent calling of the COSCO Development, the largest ship to dock on the east coast, at 13,092 containers measured in 20-foot units, or TEUs – was a mere foot from an anytime sailing transit, and three feet from a special tide sailing.
- Despite drafting under 50 feet, officials cited that the 55-foot depth would support that ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) need to safely transit with a minimum of five feet of under-keel clearance with a full cargo load, regardless of weather conditions.
As post and neo-Panamax ship numbers continue to increase, ports such as that in Virginia are preparing in advance. Stating that "every foot of draft is worth millions of dollars worth of cargo," port officials believe that shipping vessels will inevitably expand and the deeper the draft availability, the more valuable and popular the port will become.
However, that line of thinking presumes that expansion will continue at its present rate, a difficult calculation given the cost involved. As recently as last June, the largest container vessels were estimated as costing $200 million or more, not including the value of the freight inside the containers. Ultimately, a vessel could wind up being a $1 billion dollar water-borne risk able to call at fewer and fewer ports. Risk isn't limited to value, either: boats that size could easily be subject to attacks of various types, and carry nearly inestimable insurance premiums.
These are just the current costs. At present, global economics may face lower levels of growth in the future. Economic experts including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) estimate that world trade growth is going to slow down. As we have seen in numerous industries, companies that lock into big costs with slowing economic prospects will lack the nimbleness needed to negotiate the waters of economic uncertainty.