Port announces export growth amidst Coronavirus concerns

Published 7:54 pm Monday, February 10, 2020

The Port of Virginia announced Monday that its loaded export cargo volumes grew nearly 2 percent, as agricultural products are beginning to flow again to China. This is a result of the trade tariffs being lifted in mid-January, according to the Monday press release.

“The agreement the federal government and China came to in mid-January will go a long way to restoring export volumes of agricultural products moving across the Port of Virginia,” John Reinhart, the chief executive officer and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, stated in the press release. “We anticipate seeing a rebound in those cargos in February, March and beyond, but the concerns related to the Coronavirus are creating some new uncertainty in the industry.”

January’s cargo volumes were down more than 5 percent, or 12,877 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo, when compared to January 2019, according to the press release.

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The press release also stated that loaded exports were up nearly 1,400 twenty-foot equivalent units, or 1.8 percent, and that the volume at Richmond Marine Terminal grew nearly 7.3 percent.

Empty containers for export fell more than 27 percent as a result of the uncertainty being created by the Coronavirus, an increase in blank sailings, an extension of the Chinese Lunar New Year closures and quarantines in China.

“We are speaking with our ship line customers to better understand their operating posture, expectations and needs as the Coronavirus issue continues to unfold,” Reinhart stated. “We know that ship calls at, or through some Chinese ports are down and we are closely monitoring, along with our federal partners, to see if this situation is going to have an effect on our cargo volumes. What we are seeing is fewer and fewer empties being repositioned for loading in Asia as a result.

“This remains a very challenging trade environment and we are adapting,” he continued. “When we consider the big picture, a significant amount of progress being made here. The dredging to make Virginia the deepest port on the U.S. East Coast is well under way, we are delivering turn-times in the 30-minute range to motor carriers, our dwell-time for rail cargo is best-in-class and at (Norfolk International Terminals) the capacity expansion project is 80 percent complete and set for delivery this fall.”