Reinhart: Bright future for ports

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Port of Virginia must focus on growing facilities and services to meet the demands of the ever-changing global marketplace, according to the head of the Virginia Port Authority.

“The pieces are in place,” said John Reinhart, executive director of the Virginia Port Authority.

Reinhart, on Tuesday, spoke at the Hampton Roads Global Commerce Council’s annual state of the port luncheon. Approximately 300 people attended the event at the Renaissance Portsmouth Waterfront Hotel.

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Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly approved a $350 million state-backed bond to expand Norfolk International Terminals, the state’s largest container terminal. The facility now holds a maximum of 820,000 containers; once the project is complete in 2019, its capacity will increase to 1.2 million containers, according to Reinhart.

In 2105, the Port of Virginia took in 117,000 containers — more than 200,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units, which is a standard-size shipping container) — per month, according to Reinhart.

“That is the new normal,” he said.

Container volume at Virginia’s ports grew by 9 percent in 2014, according to Reinhart. Nonetheless, it grew less here than at other major East Coast ports, he said. In comparison, Wilmington, N.C., grew by 18 percent; Savannah, Ga. by 17 percent; and New York by 10 percent.

The state’s recent investment gives the impression that Virginia is in the shipping business for the long haul, according to Reinhart.

“We are getting back in the game, and we are going to be a catalyst for commerce,” Reinhart said. “We are all partners in a robust maritime economy … and we can compete.”

Last year, the Port of Virginia invested $31 million in new equipment, Reinhart said. In 2016, the port will spend $135 million on equipment.

The port has also made significant investments at the Port of Richmond during the past two years, including signing a 40-year lease with the city of Richmond, purchasing a $4.2 million harbor crane and spending $600,000 on rail improvements.

Plans are in the works that will double the container capacity at Virginia International Gateway, in Portsmouth, from 650,000 to 1.2 million containers and extend rail and ship berths, said Reinhart.

The port will also continue to diversity the type of cargo coming in, Reinhart said.  For example, more than 50,000 new vehicles passed through the port last year, a 77-percent increase over 2014.