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Port of Virginia sets November volume record

Volumes slipped nearly 9% from October on sequential basis

Volumes at the Port of Virginia last month were a record for November. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

November volumes at the Port of Virginia in Norfolk were at an all-time monthly record, according to the Virginia Port Authority.

Year-over-year volumes were nearly 4% higher, totaling 290,759 twenty-foot equivalent units. However, November’s volumes were down nearly 9% from October totals, which was the highest monthly volume on record at 318,482 TEUs.

Import loads and empties supported November volumes, with import loads up 13% to 141,617 TEUs and import empties up to 4,395 TEUs from 778 TEUs a year ago — an increase of nearly 465%.

But export loads totaled 84,002 TEUs and export empties totaled 60,746 TEUs — year-over-year decreases of 5.6% and 6.3%, respectively.

Since January, the port has processed 3.2 million TEUs, a 25% increase from the same period in 2020.

In announcing port volumes on Monday, officials looked ahead to capacity expansion plans. In November, the port’s board of commissioners approved a $61.5 million construction bid for a project aimed at increasing the port’s on-dock rail capacity to 1.1 million containers a year.

The project consists of expanding the double-stack, on-dock rail operation at the Norfolk port by doubling the size of the Central Rail Yard at Norfolk International Terminals.

“We had a productive November in terms of volume, but equally important is that we now have a clear path forward on expanding our rail capacity at NIT and that effort will be underway shortly,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, in a statement Monday. “The completion of the railyard expansion is timed to support the opening of the new deeper, wider channel and both of those projects will be in place and ready to support the expansion of NIT’s North Berth.

“In a little more than two years The Port of Virginia will be served by the deepest and widest ship channel anywhere on the U.S. East Coast. Pairing that channel depth with modern terminals and a significant increase in double-stack, on-dock rail capacity is going to attract big ships and more cargo volume. We are going to need the rail capacity to support the additional cargo we’ll be getting from this shift of big vessels to Virginia,” Edwards said.

The port handled 52,107 rail containers in November, an increase of 4.3%, although volumes at the Virginia Inland Port (VIP) slipped 19.5% to 1,946 rail containers. 

On a year-to-date basis since January, the port has handled 589,017 rail containers, an increase of 28%, with VIP rail container volumes up 10% to 28.428.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.