SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Port of Savannah is handling a record number of containers for the largest ship ever to call on the East Coast.
We showed you the huge ship, the COSCO Development, as it made its way into the port on Thursday. The ship will pass River Street again on its departure around 7 p.m. Friday, in case you want to see the enormous ship on the way out.
There's more to this vessel's visit than just fanfare. It's a busy 30-hours for port workers, who are moving 10,000 20-foot containers on and off the ship, using six cranes. More than they ever have before for one ship.
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch calls the arrival of the COSCO Development the start of a new era in the East Coast container trade. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, also at the ceremony Friday, welcomed the COSCO crew and business leaders and added this is the kind of progress we should be expecting.
"Since 2008, we have had a 45 percent increase in trade through our ports. That is a huge increase. So, our goal is to maintain that, to continue that, and to be the premier site on the Atlantic Ocean for those who are coming to the United States," said Gov. Deal.
Georgia Ports Authority leaders are also calling this a testament to the work that's been put into the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.
Right now, the dredging of the outer harbor is about 60 percent complete. Once the deepening of the Savannah Harbor is complete in four years, the Army Corps of Engineers says it will save the Garden City Terminal $282 million a year.
A deeper harbor, 26 ship-to-shore cranes and a 1,200-acre lot are just a few elements attracting companies and larger ships like the COSCO Development into Savannah.
Gov. Deal pointed out at Friday's ceremony, he expects this is the first of many visits from ships this size.
"To the Corps of Engineers and their representatives who are here, thank you for playing a part in this, and an even more important part in the continuing dredging operation to deepen the channel leading to this port so that we'll see, hard to believe, we'll see even larger vessels than the one that is behind me and in front of you today," said Gov. Deal.
Georgia's deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 369,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $20.4 billion in income, $84.1 billion in revenue and $2.3 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia's economy.
The Port of Savannah handled 8.2 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.3 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in the calendar year 2015.
"Some 370,000 jobs are associated with the activities that are coming through this port. And those are jobs that are scattered throughout the state," said Gov. Deal.
Gov. Deal says increasing the capabilities of the Port of Savannah only make it easier to attract new businesses from near and far.
"When we recruit manufactures to come to Georgia from either inside the United States or in other countries around the world, one of the major facilitating factors for their positive decision to come to Georgia is the Port of Savannah," Gov. Deal said.
If you want to see the COSCO Development in person, again, it is expected to leave the Port of Savannah around 7 p.m. on Friday. You can watch from River Street or Hutchinson Island.
Its next and final stop is the Port of Charleston. The ship is expected to arrive in Charleston Harbor at about 9:45 a.m. Saturday on its way to the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Jimmy Hamilton and Kim Huffman watched the COSCO Development arrive on Thursday.
"Oh my god, that is awesome. Yeah, that is awesome," said Hamilton.
"It's the biggest ship that I've ever seen in my life. And it's being handled as you can tell with a great deal of care and pride," Huffman said.
Plenty of people came down to River Street to watch the COSCO Development arrive, and we'll likely see plenty watching as she makes her way back to the ocean.