Box volume at Virginia port plunges 23pc in May due to pandemic

THE Port of Virginia's cargo volume in May plummeted 22

09 July 2020 - 19:00

THE Port of Virginia's cargo volume in May plummeted 22.7 per cent to 112,913 TEU compared to 146,018 TEU in the same month last year, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on commercial shipping as the port.

The decline in container throughput in May is the biggest one-month volume drop since the virus began slowing the global economy.

The port has now seen a 13 per cent decline for its calendar year to date (from January through May) and a 6.4 per cent drop for its fiscal year to date (from July through May). However, the full effect of the virus remains to be seen, since most of the impact in those statistics comes from a limited number of months, the port said.

The decline is reflected in almost every area of the operation: truck moves, rail volume, breakbulk tonnage and the amount of cargo being handled at Virginia Inland Port. The amount of cargo the port is moving by barge and volumes at Richmond Marine Terminal, however, grew, 3.4 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively.

'It is a significant loss in volume that is being felt throughout the organisation and the situation is similar across the entire maritime industry,' said Virginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart.

'We are forecasting that this trend will continue through the end of summer because our customers are telling us that the blank sailings will continue into early September. The blank sailings were supposed to subside in early August, but the ocean carriers are telling us the volume just isn't there yet. Our economy is re-awakening and we are optimistic about the future, but the recovery is going to take time and patience.'

The spread of the virus is slowing, and the port is maintaining the precautionary processes it has been using to keep colleagues and its labour partners safe. Use of masks, social distancing, workplace cleaning and working from home, when possible, continue.

'The Port of Virginia Team and our labour partner, the International Longshoremen's Association, have been very fortunate and come through this largely healthy and intact,' Mr Reinhart said. 'It's important to recognise their professionalism and thank them for their dedication.'

Despite the pandemic's impact on cargo volume, progress on the expansion of Norfolk International Terminals' (NIT) south-side container stack yard, the 55-foot channel project and Orsted's offshore-wind project at Portsmouth Marine Terminal (PMT) continue.

In May, the final group of automated stacking cranes arrived at successfully ending just over two years of constant deliveries of the machines that are the centrepieces of the expansion at that terminal; NIT's expansion will be complete this fall. The dredging project that will make Virginia home to the deepest port on the US East Coast is running ahead of schedule and PMT is preparing for the arrival of Orsted in late 2020.

'Our focus is on building a modern, efficient port that serves as an economic engine for all of Virginia and provides long-term value for our customers and the cargo owners that choose the Port of Virginia,' Mr Reinhart said.

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