Council hears port updates

Published 9:42 pm Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Port of Virginia is confident that the Virginia International Gateway will be completed by April of next year, increasing the port’s capacity to 1.2 million containers annually.

Dustin Rinehart, director of state and local government affairs for Port of Virginia, provided Suffolk City Council with the progress of the expansion and other record-breaking numbers during its work session last week.

The expansion project will help the Virginia International Gateway accommodate the ever-growing size of ships being rolled out.

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“We are ahead of the curve industry-wise. The move is towards larger ships,” Rinehart said.

Back in 2014, the port was seeing ships that could fit 8,500 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. But in just under five years, the size of the cargo ships has grown more than 50 percent. In August of 2017, the port was seeing cargo ships that could hold 14,400 TEUs.

“We have 14,400-TEU cargo ships coming twice a week, and we are already getting calls for 20,000-TEU ships coming to the port,” Rinehart said.

A single TEU is the size of a standard 20-foot shipping container.

With the size of the ships growing and more containers coming to the port, more than just container capacity needed an update at the Virginia International Gateway.

The current berths at the port will be extended to continue to have three berths available for the growing ships, and they plan to expand the truck gates to allow more traffic coming to the port.

By 2020, the port will also complete the expansion at Norfolk International Terminals. The port itself will not get bigger, but it will be optimized for greater capacity, Rinehart said. It will be possible by having a semi-automated operation like the Virginia International Gateway currently has.

Along with the expansion at the Port of Virginia’s flagship terminal, Norfolk International Terminals, they will be adding capacity for an additional 1 million containers, 286,000 jobs across the state, $39 billion in spending and $1.1 billion in new state and local taxes.

Every expansion at the Port of Virginia equates to more jobs and larger tax bases for local communities and the state, Rinehart said.

The Port of Virginia’s ranking with the Seaport and Logistics Index rose to No. 5 on the list after being No. 9 last year. Though Rinehart believes the number could be higher if more cities had a site that is ready to be developed, he believes that is where Suffolk excels.

“Here you have great opportunities that are ready to be developed, but other places in Virginia don’t,” Rinehart said. “We do have that problem, but I do believe Suffolk is doing rather well in that department.”

Council members were pleased to see the growth of the Port and how it has been bolstering the state’s economy.

“I have one word: impressive,” said Councilman Mike Duman. “Looking at the numbers, it is phenomenal, and congratulations to the Port Authority for the growth and the efficiency. It’s a huge catalyst for economic growth.”