Ports: High volume, difficult month

Published 9:39 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Amid bottlenecks that prompted a series of measures to aid shippers and transportation operators, The Port of Virginia set a new record in March for the number of 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled in any month, according to the port authority.

In a news release, John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said the 229,000 TEUs handled in March — an average of 7,400 TEUs per day — was “a significant amount of volume on a day-in, day-out basis.”

The total was 16 percent ahead of the previous March, he noted.


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“That amount of volume, some of which was carried over from February, presented a challenge to our team at every phase of the operation, and it was most acute at Virginia International Gateway, where our operational consistency was overtaken by sheer TEU volume,” Reinhart said.

“Our delivery of service at the VIG gateway for the first three weeks of March was unacceptable.”

Shippers, including International Paper’s Franklin mill, and transportation companies, such as Suffolk’s GTL Transport Co., reported significant impacts from the congestion, which saw long waits for truckers to enter VIG as well as Portsmouth Marine Terminal and Norfolk International Terminals.

Port authority spokesman Joe Harris has been updating the public regularly on measures to ease the congestion. Measures have included reducing container-stack density, a temporary embargo on empty containers arriving at facilities by rail, and more cargo-handling equipment and extended gate hours, Reinhart noted.

Despite the gridlock, almost all indicators were up during March: 17 percent for truck moves and rail containers; 3 percent for Virginia Inland Port volume; 148 percent for vehicle units. Barge containers fell by 6 percent.

“Our truck volumes did not let up in March; we processed more than 81,400 truck moves, despite the challenges,” Reinhart said.

“We understand the hardship this period put on our motor carriers and customers, and we are grateful for their patience through what has been a very difficult period.”

The authority is not expecting any drop off in cargo volumes, according to Reinhart, so many of the measures implemented in March will continue.

“We are continuing to invest in equipment, technology and people to create sustainability and improve the consistency of the port,” he said.

For the calendar year thus far, TEU volume at through the Port of Virginia is up 10 percent against the same period last year, according to Harris.