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Port of Virginia beefs up chassis fleet

Virginia port officials have ordered more equipment, and hired new mechanics and managers to help recover from congestion crisis.

   The Port of Virginia on Thursday released its tenth update on congestion mitigation efforts in the past month, this time emphasizing efforts to expand the capacity of the regional chassis pool it operates.
   A shortage of chassis as container volumes spike has contributed to long delays for truck drivers trying to deliver cargo between the port and local warehouses. 
   The port authority said it has received 280 of 400 40-foot containers it previously announced would be acquired. The chassis are being inspected and inducted into the pool as quickly as possible. Another 125 containers are also being delivered this week.
   The state agency said it is soliciting vendors to lease 500 additional chassis as well.
   Virginia International Terminals (VIT), the port’s operating arm, runs the Hampton Roads Chassis Pool II, which is designed to be more efficient since carriers, stevedores and trucking companies lease equipment from one source rather than multiple private parties, as is common in several other ports. 
   The Portsmouth Marine Terminal, which was re-opened several months ago as an overflow yard, has taken on added importance in the past month as the port struggles to recover from winter storms in February that cascaded vessel calls into March and concentrated cargo volumes at levels much higher than anticipated. Port officials are now scrambling to alleviate productivity problems at PMT. 
   Two new top-loaders are in service, one more is projected to start service next week and three more are being assembled and are scheduled to go to work the week of April 20, according to the port authority update. Four additional top-loaders are on order and are expected to be operating at PMT by mid-May. VIT has also ordered 26 flat yard trailers and intends to have 18 of them in service at PMT by the end of May.
   As previously reported, VIT also recently completed the cross-harbor transfer by barge of three rubber-tired gantry cranes from the Norfolk International Terminal to PMT.
   The port authority said it has lifted a temporary embargo on inbound empty containers moving on the Norfolk Southern railroad. The embargo was initially ordered because the port’s empty yard was full.
   Ocean carriers have committed to evacuate more than 4,000 empty containers during the next 10 days.
   VIT has also contracted with cargo equipment manufacturers and outside repair shops to augment the teams responsible for preventive maintenance and repairs at Norfolk International Terminal and the Virginia International Gateway. In the next few weeks, straddle carriers, reach-stackers, rail-mounted gantry cranes and top-loaders will be taken out of service and put through an inspection and maintenance rotation to ensure they are safe and ready for operation. Many drayage drivers and other port users have complained about the lack of equipment during shifts because of mechanical breakdowns.
    In addition, VIT has hired six assistant operations managers at each terminal, while ocean carriers are working with the International Longshoremen’s Association to hire and train more longshoremen, the port authority said.
   Meanwhile, the port continues to operate weekend truck gates, build a pad for rail-bound containers at Virginia International Gateway, and transfer cargo by barge from other terminals to PMT.