The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and GCT USA on Friday welcomed the captain and crew of the MOL Benefactor — the largest container vessel ever to call on the Port of New York and New Jersey — to GCT Bayonne.

This signals a new era in shipping, as the port continues to handle the largest vessels now transiting the recently expanded Panama Canal locks, PA officials said.

The MOL Benefactor is a new Panama class vessel boasting a 10,100 TEUs, or twenty-foot equivalent units, cellular capacity. It is the first vessel to visit any East Coast port after passing through the Panama Canal’s new locks that opened on June 26. GCT USA completed expansion at the state-of-the-art GCT Bayonne in the summer of 2014, ensuring the port was big ship ready for large vessels already transiting the Suez Canal. Previously, the largest ship to call on the port was the 10,070 TEU Zim Tianjin in spring 2015, which was also serviced by GCT Bayonne.

By contrast, the average vessel calling on the Port of New York and New Jersey today has a capacity of 5,000 TEUs, meaning new larger ships like the MOL Benefactor will result in cargo coming in and out of the harbor on fewer ships. These new Panama class ships are the most advanced environmentally engineered ships afloat, dramatically reducing emissions per ship and emissions for total cargo handled. The Benefactor, a neo Panamax vessel christened in 2016, is approximately 48.6 percent more fuel efficient than a standard Panamax vessel that calls on the port.

“Today’s event shows that we are big ship ready and that shippers can move cargo to and from New York and New Jersey and beyond on larger, more fuel efficient vessels, carrying consumer and industrial goods in fewer calls,” said Port Authority executive director Pat Foye. “This is great news for the 336,000 jobs the port already supports and the billions in economic activity it provides. But equally important, it’s good news for the environment in and around the harbor.”

To prepare for the new larger ships, the Port Authority and its private sector tenants have invested about $6 billion in projects to prepare the port complex. The most critical investment is the raising of the roadway on the Bayonne Bridge, a $1.3 billion project that will increase the navigational clearance under the bridge from 151 feet to 215 feet. Ships docking at GCT Bayonne do not have to travel under the Bayonne Bridge. The bridge’s navigational clearance will be in place by the end of 2017, allowing all terminals to serve the largest ships calling the port.

In addition, a 10-year project to deepen the harbor’s channels to 50 feet will be completed this summer. The Port Authority also invested $600 million to equip port terminals with environmentally friendly on-dock rail, in addition to significant investments to upgrade the port’s internal road network.