There have been changes going on to keep New York City’s harbor competitive internationally, particularly with expansion at the Panama Canal. The upgrades in the New York area will have a price tag of $6 billion, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and include raising the deck of the Bayonne Bridge nearly 65 feet. Larger ships can now traverse the expanded Panama Canal, carrying 1.5x the previous capacity. The new ship size, dubbed the New Panamax, was developed in direct response to the new dimensions of the locks built in the canal.

On July 7th, with very little fanfare, the MOL Benefactor, the first of the New Panamax ships and the largest vessel to ever visit New York City arrived to the Global Container Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. GCT Bayonne is the only metropolitan terminal in the area that can accommodate the New Panamax ships, and as the Waterfront Alliance reported on July 22nd, “All other area terminals either do not have the capacity or would have required the ship to pass under the too-low Bayonne Bridge.”

The MOL Benefactor carries 2x the capacity of the average ship that arrives in New York harbor, at “10,100 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) capacity…compared to 5,000 TEUs for a more typical container ship,” continues the Waterfront Alliance. The 337 meters long (1106 feet) vessel is operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and flies the flag of Hong Kong. The toll to cross the Panama Canal in early July was an astounding $829,468 and the MOL Benefactor was the first to cross the new locks. As of yesterday, it was in the Pacific headed towards Busan in South Korea. After New York, it went back down the Eastern seaboard (making a stop at Savannah, Georgia on July 13th) and crossing the Panama Canal.

The raising of the Bayonne Bridge will be completed by the end of 2017 and a 10 year project to deepen the channel here in New York City will enable the New Panamax ships to access the terminals west of the Bayonne Bridge, including Port Newark Container Terminal, Maher Terminal, APM Terminal, and GCT New York.

Next, read about the Top 10 Secrets of the Bayonne Bridge and discover 10 Traces of the Erie Canal in NYC.