Management of Empty Containers, Limits on Certain Exports Help Manage Capacity

December 10, 2018

Contact: Joseph D. Harris Spokesman
(757) 683-2137 / Office
(757) 675-8087 / Cell

Management of Empty Containers, Limits on Certain Exports Help Manage Capacity;
November Volumes Static in Year-on-Year Comparison

NORFOLK, VA – The Port of Virginia® is closely managing the movement of empty containers to optimize its existing container capacity and drive the efficient movement of cargo during construction at its two main container terminals.

In November, the port’s TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) volume was 239,890 units, just 680 units shy of last November’s total. Contributors to the static volumes, said John F. Reinhart, the CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, were close management of empty containers and an intentional effort to limit some export cargo that would normally move across Virginia. These efforts were implemented to reduce overutilization of current capacity and to assist efforts to improve truck service times during the peak cargo season.

“We are focusing on moving cargo in and out of our terminals more effectively as construction continues in parallel,” Reinhart said. “We are limiting the movement of empty containers to help create space within our operation. In November, we evacuated almost 48,000 empty containers and limited the number of empty imports to 2,000. This effort is creating the room we need during construction to concentrate on moving loaded boxes.”

In addition, the port put a temporary hold on containers of grain for export. Because of their weight, many of these containers arrived on long, single-stack trains that required more resources to work. The result slowed the processing of rail cargo, Reinhart said.

“These are interim moves necessary for us to maintain our efficiency. We knew there would be some unforeseen challenges during construction. Our projects are on schedule and on budget, our team is responding well and we are employing strategies to ensure cargo flow. Still, we know we can do better.”

On a calendar year basis, total TEU volume is .4 percent ahead of last year. Volume at Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal is up 10 percent ahead of last year; cargo moving on the Richmond Express barge service is up more than 34 percent; breakbulk tonnage is up 3 percent.

Reinhart was grateful for the recently-announced 90-day working period for the U.S. and China to reach a compromise in the ongoing trade tariffs dispute, but said until there is a more permanent resolution, the situation is going to create uncertainty in the port’s 2019 volumes.

“We are focusing on those things that we can control,” he said. “The new ship-to-shore cranes are on their way to VIG (Virginia International Gateway) and are set to arrive in January, which is when we will bring the last of that terminal’s new stacks on line. We are on schedule to have the cranes operational by March, complete phase II of the rail yard in early June and have all construction at VIG complete by mid-June.”

November Cargo Snapshot

  • Total TEUs – 239,890, down .3%
  • Loaded Export TEUs – 77,789, down 11.3%
  • Loaded Import TEUs – 112,218, up 1.4%
  • Total Containers – 133,716, down 1.3%
  • Breakbulk Tonnage – 12,620 (tons), down 36.8%
  • Virginia Inland Port Containers – 2,845, up 6.7%
  • Total Rail Containers – 45,251, down 5.4%
  • Total Truck Containers – 85,065, up 1.9%
  • Total Barge Containers – 3,400, down 18.4%
  • Richmond Barge Containers – 2,258, down 4.4%
  • Vehicle Units – 1,795 – down 72.7%

The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and through its private operating subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 530,000 jobs and generated $88.4 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.