Snow, construction affect port

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Port of Virginia is taking steps to ensure it keeps handling cargo efficiently despite severe weather setbacks, according to a Wednesday press release.

The port has thus far processed 1.67 million twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo this fiscal year, a 4.4-percent increase compared to the same seven-month period in fiscal year 2017.

Cargo totals in January, however, were less than expected, according to John Reinhart, chief executive officer and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. The port processed 220,534 TEUs in January, or 7,982 fewer units compared to January 2017.

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“Snow in Virginia is a reality this time of year, and two lost workdays in the early part of January (as a result of) the blizzard are reflected in our totals,” Reinhart stated in the press release.

Snowfall on Jan. 3 disrupted logistics and supply chains, rail and truck movement, vessel calls and overall intermodal traffic along the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, according to the press release. More snow in mid-January also impacted cargo flow.

Reinhart assured that service has been restored and that the port is in “positive territory” for early February. But additional cargo volumes and construction at Virginia International Gateway, along with 33 acres of out-of-commission container yard at Norfolk International Terminals, have strained operations and presented delivery challenges.

“Our gate productivity at VIG is not up to standards, particularly for our motor carrier partners, and we are focused on addressing and improving service,” he stated.

The first six rail-mounted gantry cranes that arrived last week at VIG are part of the solution. The port’s $217 million contract with Finland-based Konecranes will bring 86 total cranes, the largest one-time order for automated stacking cranes in industry history.

“By mid-April, theses cranes and the first three new container stacks will be fully operational, and we will be folding that capacity into the operation,” Reinhart stated. “This should provide a measure of relief and improve throughput.”

There will be 26 new cranes delivered to VIG, with the rest going to NIT. The VIG cranes and stacks will be brought online as they are ready, and all of them should be operational by the end of August.

Vessel services and cargo from VIG and NIT will also be relocated to Portsmouth Marine Terminal, and on March 1, a new motor carriers’ reservation system will go live at NIT.

“We are forecasting growth, and we must be able to manage the flow of trucks into the port and plan our operations accordingly,” Reinhart stated.