Port expansion work begins

Published 10:43 pm Monday, February 13, 2017

The Port of Virginia has begun preparing its terminals for the future.

Survey crews began their work Monday on a $320-million expansion project that will nearly double the Virginia International Gateway’s annual cargo-holding capacity. It’s the first of two expansions that will add a total of 1 million containers to the port’s overall annual container capacity by 2020.

VIG is located just across the Suffolk border in Portsmouth.

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The potential economic impact of the Gateway expansion includes the creation of 166,000 jobs across the commonwealth, port officials said.

“This is an important day in the history of The Port of Virginia,” Port Authority Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director John F. Reinhart stated in a press release. “It is an important milestone in our effort to increase sustainability and prepare this port for what is to come.”

Virginia’s natural advantages are expected to make it a premier port on the East Coast. One of those advantages is the port’s channel depth of 50 feet, and a study is under way to look at the economic advantages of dredging it to 55 feet.

“As far as an East Coast location with penetration to America’s heartland, we are firm believers we can grow that business, and what’s necessary to grow that business is the capacity to handle that business, “ Port Authority spokesman Joseph Harris said Monday.

Another advantage is that Virginia’s cross-harbor traffic is accomplished with underwater tunnels and not bridges.

“As the ships get bigger, there are draft restrictions,” Harris said. “We’re very blessed in that we don’t have that issue.”

Monday’s surveys will lay the groundwork for expanding the Gateway’s container stacking yard and doubling the on-dock rail operation. Work for both begins Feb. 27.

On March 15, the Port Authority will begin expansion of the wharf. This will create new berth space that will be used to handle a larger class of container that is expected to debut by the end of the year.

“The business is coming,” Harris said. “We have to prepare, and that’s what we’re doing.”