It’s the length of four football fields and if stood on its end, it would dominate the Baltimore skyline, soaring 90 stories in the air.
Later today, the container ship Triton will be officially welcomed to the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal by a bevy of port officials and brass from Ports America Chesapeake – along with TV crews invited to film the event.
The Evergreen Line 14,424 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) vessel is billed as the “largest-ever” boat to berth in Baltimore thanks to infrastructure improvements to accommodate a new generation of Panamax ships.
The latter are so named because they can fully utilize the expansion of the 1914 canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The canal’s new locks are 180 feet wide (versus 100 feet before) and are deeper, too, at 60 feet compared to 42 feet.
The Maryland Port Administration has dredged the container port to 50 feet depths to allow two Panamax ships to dock simultaneously. The improvements come through federal, state and private funds that have so far totaled about $33 million.
The expansion helps Baltimore compete with other U.S. ports, most notably the Port of New York and New Jersey, for the expected surge in ultra-large vessels plying the seas.
Howard St. Tunnel Bottleneck
But the biggest barrier to the port’s expansion remains the Howard Street tunnel.
Efforts to renovate the single-track tunnel, which links CSX Transportation’s western and southern rail lines with the container port, have been stalled for decades.
The key is to enlarge the tunnel to accommodate double-stack rail cars.
Currently, port traffic is limited to a single layer of container boxes per rail car, a major competitive disadvantage to other Southern and East Coast ports.
CSX and the Hogan administration have gone back and forth over cost sharing between the railroad and state, with CSX agreeing, opting out and then again entering into negotiations about various finance plans.