Record-Setting Volumes, No Congestion and a New Round of Strategic Investments Close Port’s 2021

Back to News

New all-time monthly record set in December: more than 325K TEUs handled

NORFOLK, VA –The Port of Virginia® is posting its most productive year on record having processed more than 3.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2021.

“This year presented challenges to world trade beyond what we, and the industry, could have ever imagined,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “We kept our focus and delivered a best-in-class performance with solid efficiency, customer service and a record amount of cargo. It was truly collaborative effort between our entire team and all of our partners.”

The port closed its year having processed more than 325,000 TEUs in December, making it the most productive month in history; the previous record was 318,000 TEUs processed in October. Comparatively, Dec. 2021 volumes were ahead of Dec. 2020 volumes by 25 percent, or more than 65,000 TEUs.

Edwards attributes the record-setting year to multiple factors: an experienced operations team, constant preparation, ocean carriers shifting services to Virginia to capitalize on efficiency and the Virginia Model.

“We own and operate the terminals and the Hampton Roads Chassis Pool and this allows for quick decision making that ensures we are doing the right thing for the customer within the capabilities of the operation,” Edwards said. “The users of The Port of Virginia have come to understand the Virginia Model and the role it plays in our success cannot be overstated.”

The year’s success, however, cannot be measured solely in terms of cargo volume, Edwards said. In parallel to the daily effort at the terminals, the port continued its infrastructure investment with both long- and short-term projects aimed at driving efficiency, capturing more cargo and preparing for the future. Those projects include:

  • Dredging: The Thimble Shoal West project is nearing completion and dredge crews are preparing to begin work on Thimble Shoal East. When complete in 2024, the port’s channels will be 55 feet deep and wide enough to accommodate two ULCVs in the channel at once.
  • NIT Central Rail Yard: The project’s $80 million budget was approved in Nov. 2021 and work begins this winter. When complete, the Central Rail Yard at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT) will be able to accommodate 610,000 annual container lifts; current lift capacity is 350,000.  
  • Equipment: Two new super-post Panamax ship-to-shore cranes will be delivered to NIT in early spring and will be in service by the start of summer.
  • Offshore Wind: The port completed its lease of Portsmouth Marine Terminal to companies that will use the terminal as the staging and pre-assembly area for the components needed to develop a large-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach.

“In addition to our volumes we made significant gains on many fronts,” Edwards said. “In roughly two years this port will have the capacity to process more than one million rail lifts annually. Our progress on dredging has us tracking to make Virginia home to the deepest port on the US East Coast by late 2024. We’ve fostered private investment on our terminals that is helping to support an entirely new industry — wind energy — in Virginia. And, we are investing in equipment to ensure that we are ready for the future.”

Edwards also pointed to the port’s expanding role in driving economic investment and job creation. In 2021, the port was instrumental in helping to generate nearly 5,000 new jobs and the development of nearly 7 million square feet of space that had a total investment value of $1.7 billion.

“We are listening to our customers and cargo owners and are always looking for ways to improve how we process ships and move cargo,” Edwards said. “When we do this well, confidence in The Port of Virginia increases. The results are growing volumes and expanding businesses that help drive the state’s economy and job creation throughout Virginia.”

December is the half-way mark in fiscal year 2022 and thus far the TEU volume is 1.84 million TEUs, an increase of nearly 20 percent; gate volumes are up 25 percent; loaded imports, up 22 percent; and total rail volume is up nearly 23 percent.

Cargo Snapshot CY2021 vs. CY2020

  • Total TEUs – 3,522,834 up 25.2%
  • Loaded Export TEUs – 1,049,588 up 11.6%
  • Loaded Import TEUs – 1,679,528 up 27.5%
  • Total Containers – 1,959,750 up 25.9%
  • Total Breakbulk Tonnage – 147,686 up 84.4%
  • Virginia Inland Port Containers – 31,282 up 9.8%
  • Total Rail Containers – 642,755 up 27.9%
  • Total Truck Containers – 1,239,324 up 24.9%
  • Total Barge Containers – 77,651 up 27.7%