Expansion allows Port of Wilmington to welcome its largest ship to date, the Yang-Ming Unity

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The Yang-Ming Unity called on the Port of Wilmington on Sunday. Photo Courtesy of NC Ports.
The Yang-Ming Unity called on the Port of Wilmington on Sunday. Photo Courtesy of NC Ports.

WILMINGTON – After welcoming the Hanjin Baltimore last month, the Port of Wilmington has received an even bigger ship on Sunday.

At 1,101 feet long and 140 feet wide and carrying around 8,200 20-foot-long containers (TEUs), the Yang-Ming Unity is the largest vessel to date to call on a North Carolina port. The ship came through the recently expanded Panama Canal on its way from trade routes in Asia to the eastern seaboard of the United States. It left Monday morning for Virginia after less than a day in Wilmington.

According to Cliff Pyron, the senior manager for external affairs for the North Carolina State Ports Authority, the ship was able to utilize the recently completed turning basin on the port side of the Cape Fear River, which expanded from 1,200 feet to 1,400 feet. The basin allows vessels to make three-point turns in the river in order to get in and out of port.

“The time we’ve completed the expansion in is unprecedented in our industry,” said Pyron of the six-month project, which was finished on July 31. “This will allow us to receive ships even larger than the Yang-Ming Unity, ships that have capacities in the 8,000 to 10,000 TEUs range.”

In a news release, senior executives from the NC Ports echoed that statement.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for us at North Carolina Ports. We made a promise to our customers that this project would be done on time and we met that goal,”  Executive Director Paul J. Cozza said. “For this expansion to finish in just over six months and give us the capabilities it has is unprecedented in our business.”

“This is a commitment of support to our existing and future customers,” Chief Commercial Officer Greg Fennell added. “We are making the necessary investments, we are big-ship ready and we will continue to handle these larger vessels deployed to the U.S. Southeast.”

The Port of Wilmington, which lies 26 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on the Cape Fear River, received over 4 million tons of container, breakbulk and bulk shipments between July 2015 and May 2016, the last month for which numbers are available. Those shipments came in a total of 262,782 TEUs, according to a report on the NC Ports website.

North Carolina ports supply 76,000 jobs statewide and account for $700 million in state and local tax revenue each year.

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