Growth at Port, despite holidays and tariffs

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Port of Virginia announced Tuesday that its calendar-year-to-date growth is nearly 4 percent ahead of the same time period last year, which is an increase of more than 98,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo.

According to the Tuesday press release, cargo volumes in November were down more 5 percent compared to November 2018, a drop of 12,900 TEUs.

These declines are the result of “a late Thanksgiving holiday that pushed some vessel calls into December, the ongoing tariffs and overall trade uncertainty,” the press release states.

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Despite these declines, the port is still on course in 2019 towards its fifth record-setting year for cargo growth, Virginia Port Authority Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director John Reinhart stated in the press release, and there is still a month to go in the year.

“The trade environment continues to present challenges, and we are adapting,” Reinhart stated. “Our agricultural export volumes are down and are reflective of the ongoing tariffs. We are hopeful there will be some rebound in this trade segment as the Chinese government is set to relax some of the tariffs on U.S. exports of pork products and soybeans.

“We are focusing on those things that we can control like providing world-class service to all of our customers, the cargo owners and port users. We are also driving the reliable, efficient and safe movement of the cargo flowing across the terminals, diversifying the types of cargo moving in and out of this port and continuing the capacity expansion project at NIT (Norfolk International Terminals).”

On a calendar year-to-date basis from January through November, overall TEU volume is up by 3.8 percent. The press release also states that rail volume is flat, Virginia Inland Port is down by 12 percent, total barge moves are up by 18.5 percent, Richmond Marine Terminal volume is up by 18.7 percent, and truck moves are up by 3.6 percent.

Breakbulk tonnage and vehicle units were down 14 and 18 percent, respectively.

The press release states that turn-times for motor carriers and dwell-time for rail cargo and productivity at the berth continue to improve and that another initiative, the channel widening and deepening project, is under way.

This project will hold even more benefits for customers, cargo owners and port users, according to Reinhart.

“The work to widen and deepen our channels to 55-feet-and-beyond is under way, nearly two and half years ahead of schedule,” Reinhart stated. “By 2024, Virginia will be home to the U.S. East Coast’s deepest and safest port, with the land and waterside assets to handle the biggest ships afloat. The Port of Virginia is evolving, innovating, listening and growing. It is all of the port’s users and the Virginia economy that benefit.”