Port growth continues

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Port of Virginia announced on Tuesday that its calendar-year growth is nearly 5 percent ahead of the same period last year, an increase of more than 111,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo.

This growth comes despite flat October volumes, according to the press release, where cargo was down just more than 1 percent compared with October 2018, or 3,562 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

The port in 2019, however, is still on course for its fifth record-setting year for cargo growth, according to John Reinhart, chief executive officer and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority.

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“We continue to see the impact of the tariffs on some of our agricultural exports that would normally be heading to China, and this will continue until both sides reach a compromise on that issue,” Reinhart stated in the press release. “Additionally, export markets are feeling the effect of the strong dollar. The increased cost overseas of American-made goods creates a challenge for exporters.

“We see these as short-term issues, while our focus remains to provide our customers with best-in-class service. We are still processing significant amounts of cargo in less time than ever before. Our turn-times for motor carriers, dwell-time for rail cargo, and productivity at the berth are all trending in the right direction.”

According to the press release, overall TEU volume is up by 4.7 percent on a calendar-year-to-date basis. Rail has increased by 0.9 percent, while the Virginia Inland Port is down 10 percent.

Barge moves are up by 17 percent, and Richmond Marine Terminal volume is also up by 17 percent. Truck moves have increased by 4.4 percent, while breakbulk tonnage and vehicle units were down 14 and 17 percent, respectively.

“We are making significant progress on our overall expansion plan,” Reinhart stated in the press release. “Last week, we announced the start of construction to dredge the Norfolk Harbor and commercial channels to 55 feet and widen them in selected areas. This project holds long-term benefits for Virginia, for the port, for cargo owners, our customers and the ocean carriers.

“Safe, two-way movement of ultra-large container vessels, unrestricted by tide, is a significant competitive advantage for our port. This project and all other improvements we are making at the terminals tells the ocean carriers ‘we are ready for your big ships.’”

The capacity expansion project at Norfolk International Terminals is on schedule, according to the press release. There are 18 new stacks served by 36 new rail mounted gantry cranes already in service. Work on the next phase of stack-yard construction is under way, with the next group of cranes scheduled for delivery in January.

When the project is complete, the terminal’s annual container capacity will have been expanded by 400,000 units, or 46 percent.