Port receives expansion centerpieces

Published 10:28 pm Friday, February 2, 2018

The Happy Buccaneer arrived at the Port of Virginia early Friday morning with a valuable payload.

The heavy-load vessel had departed from Poland on Jan. 12 carrying the first bundle of six rail-mounted gantry cranes.

Each crane is worth about $2.5 million.

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The units will be off-loaded at the Virginia International Gateway terminal, mounted on rails, taken through some minor assembly, tested and then put into service by the end of April, according to a news release. The Buccaneer is scheduled to leave for Poland this Sunday, then come back with more cranes in six to seven weeks.

This is just the beginning of a two-year cycle to bring the 86 centerpieces of an expansion taking place at VIG and Norfolk International Terminal.

“I feel like a new father, and we’ve got all the new kids showing up,” said John F. Reinhart, chief executive officer and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. He compared his excitement for their arrival to the Super Bowl.

The port finalized a $217 million contract with Finland-based Konecranes to fill an order of 86 new cranes. In total, 26 new cranes will be delivered to VIG, while the other 60 will go to NIT.

The contract is the largest one-time order for automated stacking cranes in industry history, according to the press release.

“This is the start of the reinvention of the port,” Reinhart said.

The cranes for VIG will be delivered in bundles every other month through August, after which the 60 remaining cranes will be delivered to NIT at similar intervals.

As part of the $320 million expansion of VIG that began in February 2017, the terminal’s container stack yard will be expanded by August, adding 13 new container stacks.

The work also includes lengthening the berth, receiving four new ship-to-shore cranes, doubling the size of the rail operation and adding new lanes to the truck gate, according to a press release.

The expansion at VIG is scheduled for completion by spring 2019, and the entire $695 million expansion of VIG and NIT will be complete by the third quarter of 2020.

Reinhart said the port is currently at capacity, and that the port’s expansion will increase the annual throughput capacity by 40 percent, or 1 million containers. The project will reportedly create approximately 320,000 jobs for Virginians.

This improvement in efficiency will also convince more companies to do business with the Port of Virginia, according to Reinhart.

“It’s going to make us one of the most competitive ports on the East Coast,” he said.