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Sandy boosts Virginia ports

Published 11:09pm Friday, November 2, 2012

The Port of Virginia is receiving cargo diverted from New York/New Jersey due to damage caused to the northern port by Superstorm Sandy.

The extra business for the commonwealth began on Thursday, a press release from the Virginia Port Authority states, with the arrival of two ships that normally don’t call on the state.

Container ship APL Indonesia offloaded more than 1,000 containers at Norfolk International Terminals, and the car carrier Prestige discharged 1,300 vehicles at Newport News Marine Terminal.

Up to 3,000 additional containers are expected at Portsmouth’s APM Terminals or the Norfolk terminals in the coming days, the authority said, and port leaders were preparing for the trend to continue.

“We’re expecting additional discharge volumes, and we know we’ll be challenged to keep everything flowing, but we can handle that,” Rodney Oliver, the authority’s interim executive director, said in the release.

“Our primary concern is the people in the Northeast — we have people in this office who are from that area and still have family there. Also, they’re industry people and we have friends at the Port of New York/New Jersey that we’re worried about.”

Virginia port leaders will be focused on channeling the extra cargo overland to the New York metropolitan area, Oliver said, adding that “the effort will be to get it off the ship and up to the Northeast as efficiently and as quick as possible, because they’re going to need it.”

They have no projection on how much cargo could be diverted to Virginia, but are shaping plans to handle several thousand additional containers per week in the short-term, the release states.

Closer coordination with the ocean carriers, harbor pilots, tug companies, labor, railroads, motor carriers, U.S. Customs and “multiple other important players in the movement of cargo” are all parts of those plans.

As well as from new ships, extra cargo will also be offloaded from vessels that call Virginia and New York/New Jersey on East Coast rotations, Joseph Dorto, chief executive officer and general manager of Port of Virginia operator Virginia International Terminals, stated in the release.

“Capacity is not an issue; what we’re focusing on is coordinating all of the parts to keep our normal volumes and any additional volume flowing. We have to do this and keep all our people safe as well; safety is paramount,” he added.

Railroads have already stepped up operations, and VIT has added weekend gate hours at APMT, NIT and both empty container yards, today from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Plans are also being developed to use Portsmouth Marine Terminal for roll-on, roll-off cargo and possibly to store containers.

“It is important to note that we’re not capitalizing on someone’s misfortune,” Oliver said. “Any diverted cargo is temporary, and it is important that New York/New Jersey get back on its feet as soon as it can because of its critical role in U.S. East Coast trade. The Northeast is in our thoughts.”

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