The Port of New York and New Jersey saw its biggest containership yet when the 1,200’ OOCL Berlin entered Newark Bay Monday.

With a 13,208-TEU capacity, the Orient Overseas Container Line ship was the largest to transit under the newly elevated Bayonne Bridge over the Kill Van Kull channel. The $1.3 billion bridge rebuilding, which raised the vertical clearance under the bridge from 151' to 215',  is a major step in the Port Authority of NY/NJ effort to prepare for the new generation of neo-Panamax cargo carriers.

Infrastructure improvements are all part of the game as East Coast ports hustle to make themselves more attractive to the big ship operators. Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., are well along with their improvements and have seen the biggest ships to date call in the past year.

It means new challenges for tugboat operators and pilots, and new investments in workboats up to the task. Tugs of 100’ and higher horsepower are being built, captains and pilots have been training in simulators, and pilot associations are going for faster, more capable boats to rendezvous with ships farther out of port.

The cotainership CMA CGM Nerval passes under the Bayonne Bridge in September 2016, before the original roadway deck was removed. Kirk Moore photo.

The containership CMA CGM Nerval passes under the Bayonne Bridge in September 2016, before the original roadway deck was removed. Kirk Moore photo.

On Monday docking pilots with McAllister Towing and Transportation brought the Berlin into the Maher Terminals Berth 68. Port Authority and Maher Terminals officials marked the occasion with a welcoming event for Capt. Syed Khoda, director of OOCL (USA) Inc., Salt Lake City, the U.S. operating group of Hong Kong-based OOCL, and presented a plaque marking the occasion to the Berlin’s master, Capt. Tan Chen Seng.

Before that the largest ships to call at the port have been up to 1,000’ in length, according to the Port Authority. OOCL will send a sister ship, the OOCL Malaysia, later this summer, and three more ships from the same group are being considered for future rotations through the New York-New Jersey port through the rest of 2017.



Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.