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Virginia tops Southeast coast container ports in growth

The Port of Virginia recorded the highest percentage gain in container traffic among main container ports in the Southeast. (Photo/Provided)
The Port of Virginia recorded the highest percentage gain in container traffic among main container ports in the Southeast. (Photo/Provided)

Staff Report
Published Feb. 20, 2013

NORFOLK, Va. — The Port of Virginia in 2012 posted the highest rate of growth of any main container port along the Southeastern coast of the United States as it climbed 9.8% over previous year’s numbers.

The Port of Charleston was second with a 9.6% annual growth rate. From there, the numbers drastically trailed off. The Port of Savannah in Georgia was third at 0.7%, while the Port of Wilmington, N.C., which reported statistics through November, was down 6.7%.

For the year, Virginia handled 2.1 million 20-foot equivalent units, second best year in port history. Only 22,479 TEUs separated 2012 from 2007, which is the port’s best year on record in terms of TEUs.

Virginia showed growth for every month in 2012 except January. In addition, the Virginia port posted increases in six other categories it uses to measure cargo moving across the state-owned terminals. Those are:

· Containers: 1.21 million, up 9.8%.

· General cargo tonnage: 17.5 million, up 12.1%.

· Total rail containers: 385,804, up 16.8 %.

· Barge containers: 8,009, up 82.5%.

· Ship calls: 1,963, up 7.4%.

· Vehicle units: 40,031, up 28.5%.

“This is not the type of thing we’ll get an award for, but it shows that our effort to market the deepest shipping channels on the East Coast, an expanding rail network, the modern container terminals that we own and operate and a commitment to customer service and continual improvement is drawing attention — business — to Virginia,” said Rodney W. Oliver, the Virginia Port Authority’s interim executive director.

Oliver also noted that the port set a record in 2012 when a containership that sailed in from the harbor was so heavy with export boxes that it needed 48.5 feet of water.

“This will likely be the standard in the very near future,” Oliver said, referring to future calls of post-Panamax ships that could need up to 50 feet of water to safely navigate the harbor.

Meanwhile, the Port of Charleston reported container volume totaled 1.5 million TEUs handled at the port’s two container terminals. Volume was up 13% in December compared to the same month last year, with 124,120 TEUs moving across the docks.

Charleston also claimed to be the fastest-growing container port on the coast from January through November, the latest month of volume data available from competing ports.

Midway through the fiscal year that began July 1, container traffic has grown nearly 12% percent on the strength of loaded exports and the performance of new carrier services that have expanded Charleston’s reach to foreign markets, such as Vietnam and Australia.

At Savannah, the Georgia Ports Authority said the port handed handled 2.966 million container units, up 22,000 TEUs over 2011.

The port’s 2012 performance was well below the 4.2% increase recorded in 2011 and 19.9% for 2010.

Officials said numbers reported for 2011 and 2010 were up because the economy was recovering from the Great Recession of late 2007 to June 2009.

Although the increase was small, 2012 represented the busiest year in port history, Georgia officials said.