Source: Journal of Commerce
April 14th 2016
The Port of Virginia set a new record in March for the amount of rail cargo handled in a month, despite a decline in overall containerized volume in the month.
The Southeast port’s container traffic declined 7 percent last month to roughly 119,487 twenty-foot-equivalents. That resulted in a 13 percent year-over-year decline in gate moves, according to the Virginia Port Authority.
The March figures follow a comparably stronger February, in which container volume surged double digits, up 24 percent year over year, and a mild January, in which flat volume year over year grew at just 0.4 percent.
The March decline was expected, however, VPA CEO and Executive Director John F. Reinhart said.
March of 2015’s stronger volume was driven by inclement weather in late February that pushed vessel calls into March, Reinhart said in a statement. That rough weather forced the port to shut down for four days in February over the Presidents’ Day weekend, contributing to a $560,000 operating loss and 0.8 percent decline in TEU volume that month.
March 2015 also benefitted from uncertainty at ports on the U.S. West Coast, at the time still roiled in a protracted labor dispute and related congestion on Pacific waterfronts, Reinhart said.
“However, March 2016 TEU and container volumes were the second-highest March in the history of the port (after March 2015),” he said, “so our volumes are still solid and our fiscal-year results are 3.6 percent above the same period last year.”
In his statement, Reinhart drew attention to the port’s strong rail figures in March, as opposed to the declining overall cargo volumes.
Virginia processed 46,600 rail containers, amounting to roughly 39 percent of March’s total container volume, according to the state port authority. Total rail volume at the port in March was up 15 percent year over year for the calendar year and 10 percent for the fiscal year.
“Our message about the strength of our rail connections to critical Midwest markets is resonating with the market,” Reinhart said.
In addition to the strong rail business, Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal and the Richmond Marine Terminal also showed considerable growth in March. Container volume at RMT grew 58 percent year over year, and VIP increased 45 percent over the same period.
It marked the first time since the state port authority took the reins of RMT that cargo volume exceeded 2,000 units in a given month, Reinhart said.
The Port of Richmond, Virginia’s barge terminal on the James River, has been the benefactor of a new strategic investment plan that Reinhart has rolled out since coming on board in early 2014.
“Richmond and the inland port are showing their capabilities and potential, and they will be vital as we go forward with our plans to significantly increase capacity at our primary, deep-sea terminals over the next three to four years.”