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Port of Virginia officials yesterday signed a contract to purchase four new ship-to-shore cranes as part of the $320 million expansion of the Virginia International Gateway (VIG). The port authority's board last month approved a $44.8 million spending package that covers the cost of the cranes, parts, their delivery to Virginia from China and installation at VIG.Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. is building the cranes, which will be the largest of their kind in the United States, port authority officials said in a press release.The units will be able to handle the ultra large container vessels that now call at the port, as well as an anticipated higher volume of ships."What is unique about these cranes is their outreach, they will be able to reach across a vessel that is 26 containers wide, which is three-to-four containers wider than most cranes," said John Milliken, who chairs the port authority's board. "We anticipated needing this capacity (of the cranes) for the ships that will be coming to Virginia 10 years from now."