May 28, 2021

SC Ports welcomes record-breaking CMA CGM MARCO POLO

The record-breaking CMA CGM MARCO POLO arrived in Charleston today. (Photo/SCPA/English Purcell)
Governor Henry McMaster celebrated the arrival of the largest container ship to ever call on the East Coast, signifying a big moment for South Carolina and SC Ports. (Photo/SCPA/English Purcell)

CHARLESTON, SC — MAY 28, 2021 — Hundreds of people stood on the shoreline snapping pictures as the massive CMA CGM MARCO POLO sailed into Charleston today, setting the record as the largest ship to ever call the U.S. East Coast and the Port of Charleston.

South Carolina Ports welcomed the record-breaking CMA CGM MARCO POLO to Wando Welch Terminal. The vessel measures 1,300 feet long and has the capacity to carry 16,022 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent container units).

When compared to iconic markers in the Lowcountry, the ship equals 1.5 USS Yorktowns and seven 787-8 Boeing-made Dreamliner jets.

Four ship-to-shore cranes with 155 feet of lift height above the wharf deck are deployed on the CMA CGM MARCO POLO, ensuring the swift movement of more than 2,200 containers filled with goods.

“The S.C. Ports Authority has made South Carolina proud by transforming Charleston into a world-class port that attracts world-class investment and can now accommodate the largest container ships in the world,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said. “We welcome the CMA CGM MARCO POLO and look forward to breaking even more records as our infrastructure continues to improve and our economy continues to grow.”

SC Ports has invested $2 billion in port infrastructure in recent years to handle bigger ships and more cargo for customers.

Work is ongoing to enhance Wando Welch Terminal, including densifying the terminal, strengthening the berths and investing in new equipment. Wando Welch Terminal will have 15 ship-to-shore cranes with 155 feet of lift height above the wharf deck ready to work container ships later this year.

The opening of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in March marked the first container terminal to open in the U.S. since 2009. The Leatherman Terminal adds much-needed port capacity and another berth to the U.S. East Coast port market.

Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District is working to deepen Charleston Harbor to 52 feet; the project is progressing well and is fully funded by state and federal dollars.

The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project achieved a significant milestone this month by reaching 52 feet in the Wando River in front of Wando Welch Terminal. When the project is fully completed in 2022, Charleston will have the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet, capable of seamlessly handling fully loaded mega container ships at any time, any tide.

These significant projects are occurring while the maritime community and motor carriers provide efficient, fluid operations for customers.

“SC Ports has invested in big-ship infrastructure and terminal capacity to handle the boom in retail goods and ensure a fluid supply chain for customers. The arrival of the 16,022-TEU CMA CGM MARCO POLO highlights the importance of our big-ship strategy,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “This is a big moment for South Carolina. Our whole maritime community is extremely proud of our ability to handle this ship and of the confidence CMA CGM has placed in SC Ports. Congratulations to our partner CMA CGM on this impressive deployment. We are all proud to share in this milestone.”

The CMA CGM MARCO POLO is docked at SC Ports' Wando Welch Terminal. (Photo/SCPA/English Purcell)

The CMA CGM MARCO POLO is operated by the CMA CGM Group, a world leader in shipping and logistics. Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America and APL North America, came to SC Ports to celebrate the arrival of the record-breaking vessel in Charleston.

The Port of Charleston is the last U.S. port of call for the CMA CGM MARCO POLO before it heads overseas after its historic journey.

“The big-ship records we have set this week and the resulting increase in capacity are tangible proof of CMA CGM’s willingness to do whatever it takes to serve our customers,” Aldridge said. “Of course, this would not be possible without the support of our port partners. SC Ports’ recent infrastructure enhancements and the deepening of the Charleston Harbor are the type of investments that enable us to deliver the solutions that keep America moving.”

The deployment of the CMA CGM MARCO POLO signifies the company’s commitment to creating agile and flexible solutions to meet the needs of its U.S. customer base as many ports are handling unprecedented cargo volumes from a boom in e-commerce and retail.

The CMA CGM MARCO POLO is part of CMA CGM’s Columbus JAX service, traveling between South Asia and the U.S. East Coast. The vessel arrives less than one year after the record-breaking 15,072-TEU CMA CGM BRAZIL, which called on SC Ports last September.

“It gives our maritime community great pride to welcome the CMA CGM MARCO POLO to Charleston,” SC Ports COO Barbara Melvin said. “The arrival of this record-breaking vessel highlights the importance of our infrastructure projects, which require great foresight and significant investment to deliver the capacity and capabilities our customers require. Our efforts ensure South Carolina remains a top 10 U.S. container port, in support of South Carolina’s economy.”

Charleston celebrated the historic arrival of the CMA CGM MARCO POLO. (Photo/SCPA/English Purcell)

Notable quotes

“Port infrastructure investments make milestones such as the CMA CGM MARCO POLO arrival possible. Bigger ships carry more cargo for port-dependent businesses, which in turn creates jobs and growth in our communities. South Carolina Ports supports 1 in 10 jobs in the state and generates a $63.4 billion economic impact in South Carolina each year.” — SC Ports Board Chairman Bill Stern

“Investments to deepen Charleston Harbor and enhance the Port of Charleston to handle bigger ships have been true game changers for our state. The arrival of the CMA CGM MARCO POLO showcases how crucial it is that our port remains a top 10 U.S. container port. SC Ports is the backbone of our state’s economy, supporting jobs and ensuring South Carolina remains globally competitive.” — Senator Lindsey Graham

“The arrival of the CMA CGM MARCO POLO is a major achievement for South Carolina. The Port of Charleston has been a vital economic engine for South Carolina, and the arrival of one the largest ships in the world demonstrates the state’s ability to compete in the global economy. I am pleased that federal and state support enabled the deepening of Charleston Harbor to accommodate today’s mega ships. Those investments will continue to sustain this important contributor to our state’s economic success.” — Congressman Jim Clyburn

“Today, we witnessed history here in the Lowcountry. South Carolina is a world-class industrial hub, and the Port of Charleston generates over $65 billion a year while supporting one out of every ten jobs in our state. The arrival of MARCO POLO is a powerful reminder of just how important the port is to South Carolina's economy, and how important South Carolinians are to the global economy." — Congresswoman Nancy Mace

“The arrival of the record-breaking CMA CGM Marco Polo is a major milestone for South Carolina, showcasing our global competitiveness. This achievement is made possible from years of hard work, strategic planning and significant investment. We have the deepest harbor of any port on the East Coast at 52 feet, which enables mega container ships to seamlessly flow through Charleston Harbor and call on the Port of Charleston.” — Senator Larry Grooms, chairman of the Review and Oversight Commission on the State Ports Authority

“Today is an exciting day for SC Ports and for South Carolina as the largest container ship to ever visit the East Coast arrives in Charleston. The CMA CGM MARCO POLO highlights the big-ship capabilities at SC Ports. Our well-run port supports companies throughout our state, serving as a great economic engine for our state.” — Representative Bill Sandifer, Vice Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee and Port Oversight Commission

“The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project will enhance transportation efficiencies in Charleston Harbor by removing tidal restrictions, enabling Neo-Panamax vessels like the CMA CGM MARCO POLO to call on South Carolina Ports at any time. Taking a project of this scale and impact from a feasibility study to completion in 12 years and within just six years of its federal construction authorization is a testament to the professionalism and determinization of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, the vision of SC Ports and the cooperation of local leaders.” — Lt. Col. Rachel Honderd, district commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District

Want a tour of CMA CGM MARCO POLO? Here’s your chance!

The CMA CGM Group is hosting an Instagram contest for the most beautiful pictures in each port city the CMA CGM MARCO POLO calls. Here are the details:

  • Snap a photo of the CMA CGM MARCO POLO while it is in Charleston.
  • Post your best shots on Instagram tagging @CMACGM with at least one of the following hashtags: #CMACGMRecord, #CMACGMMarcoPolo and #CCMarcoPoloCharleston. (Tag @SCPorts and #SCPorts, too!)
  • CMA CGM will pick three winners for Charleston.
  • The three winners will have an unprecedented opportunity to tour the CMA CGM MARCO POLO during its next port of call in Charleston.
  • Read contest details here.

The CMA CGM MARCO POLO is scheduled to depart Saturday, May 29, likely in the evening, although this schedule can shift. Follow us on social media for updates: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Led by Rodolphe Saadé, the CMA CGM Group is a world leader in shipping and logistics. Its 566 vessels serve more than 420 ports around the world, on all five continents. In 2020, they transported nearly 21 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) containers. With CEVA Logistics, a world leader in logistics services, CMA CGM handles 400,000 tons of airfreight and 2.8 million tons of inland freight every year.

CMA CGM is constantly innovating to offer customers new maritime, inland and logistics solutions. Present on every continent and in 160 countries through its network of 755 offices and 750 warehouses, the Group employs more than 110,000 people worldwide, of which 2,400 are in Marseille where its head office is located.

In the United States, CMA CGM, which is based in Norfolk, Va., employs more than 12,000 people. Its subsidiary, American President Lines (APL), operates a fleet of U.S.-flagged vessels and supports U.S. territories and American military stationed around the world.

About South Carolina Ports Authority

South Carolina Ports Authority, established by the state's General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport and intermodal facilities in Charleston, Dillon, Georgetown and Greer. As an economic development engine for the state, Port operations facilitate 225,000 statewide jobs and generate nearly $63.4 billion in annual economic activity. SC Ports is soon to be home to the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet. SC Ports is an industry leader in delivering speed-to-market, seamless processes and flexibility to ensure reliable operations, big ship handling, efficient market reach and environmental responsibility. Please visit to learn more about SC Ports.