Ports experience huge growth

Published 6:03 pm Saturday, February 11, 2017

Virginia ports have started the New Year well, according to a recent report, and this bodes well for Suffolk job seekers and Virginia businesses.

The Virginia Port Authority announced on Friday that 228,516 20-foot equivalent units were moved through its facilities in January. That represents an 18.5 percent growth in volume compared with January of last year, and pushes the fiscal-year-to-date growth to 8 percent.

Despite losing two days of work due to heavy snowfall at the start of the month, the Port of Virginia moved 128,420 cargo containers, 18,653 more containers than in January 2016.

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“We had a very good month,” Port of Virginia spokesman Joseph Harris said. “It shows the confidence that the ocean carriers have in our port. We anticipate that volumes ebb and flow, but we are going to remain on the strong side of volume.”

This growth comes as the port begins a three-year expansion plan at the Virginia International Gateway and Norfolk International Terminals, the port’s two primary container-handling facilities.

VIG will receive a $320 million expansion, while $350 million is being allocated towards expanding NIT. Development for NIT begins this summer.

“The volumes we are seeing a clear indicator that we are adding capacity at the right time,” Virginia Port Authority Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director John Reinhart stated in a press release.

These expansions can have a positive effect on job growth during the coming years.

Warehouses and distribution centers are strategically placed throughout Suffolk and the surrounding region, and local port users are expanding their operations, as well.

Ace Hardware, a Virginia port user, announced on Wednesday that it plans to expand its Suffolk Redistribution Center. This expansion will add 138,000 square feet to the site’s existing 336,000-foot space, with a target completion in November.

Furthermore, American exporters of goods will benefit from the improvements being made to the port. The VIG, for instance, is expected to double its productivity with the money being invested.

“We drive investments, jobs and revenues for the commonwealth and the locality,” Harris said. “The port is a catalyst for commerce throughout Virginia, including Suffolk and the region”

The long-term plan for the VPA is sustainable growth and business statewide to drive jobs and investment. The idea is to build more confidence in the ports to attract more ocean cargo carriers and cargo owners, whether they’re domestic exporters or foreign importers.

“The volume is a reflection of the work that we do here and the confidence in the port of Virginia cargo,” Harris said. “That gives ocean carriers and cargo owners confidence that they can move their cargo through Virginia for many decades to come.”