Massport upgrades looks to bring bigger ships to New England

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New England aims to build upon its shipping prowess as the Port of Boston celebrates a number of facility improvements to serve bigger ships from the world’s busiest shipping lines.

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) is in the final stages of its $850 million project to become “big ship ready” as it has dredged Boston Harbor; purchased three additional ship-to-shore container cranes; constructed a berth to accommodate vessels carrying 14,000 twenty-foot equivalent units; and built a freight corridor to eliminate commercial truck traffic through surrounding neighborhoods.

“We had the foresight over a decade ago to see that the Port of Boston needed to upsize, modernize and revitalize its container terminal in order to stay competitive as an East Coast port, especially with the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016 that’s now accepting larger vessels,” said Lauren Gleason, Massport’s deputy port director of business development.

The ever-increasing size of container ships has spurred premier ports to follow suit, which means everything must be bigger — and deeper. Massport, the Army Corps of Engineers and the commonwealth of Massachusetts initiated a $350 million dredging project to deepen the harbor to 47 feet and the waters alongside berths to 50 feet and to expand the harbor’s turning basin to 1,725 feet.

The three new ZPMC-built cranes, which began service in September, are 205 feet tall, have a towering 163-foot lift height and can reach 22 container rows across a ship. In all, this enables the port to handle vessels carrying up to 14,000 TEUs.

The cranes were positioned just west of existing berths to distance the port from the flight path of nearby Logan International Airport, which Massport also owns and operates. The Conley Terminal’s cranes, which Gleason describes as some of the largest low-profile cranes in the world, were specially engineered to have horizontal booms to adhere to FAA air draft restrictions.

Massport hopes its upgrades will attract new services to the port. Weekly services to Northern Europe and North China are already provided by Mediterranean Shipping Co. and the Ocean Alliance, a space-sharing consortium among CMA CGM, OOCL, Evergreen and Cosco, but Gleason said the port is eyeing a Southeast Asia service from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and India.

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