The Port of Virginia in Norfolk handled more than 306,000 twenty-foot equivalent units in September, the third month in 2021 that volumes exceeded 300,000.
September volumes rose 19% year-over-year and were just under the more than 307,000 TEUs handled in August, the Virginia Port Authority said Tuesday. The highest total for 2021 so far occurred in May, when the port handled 315,000 TEUs.
Notably, loaded imports grew 26% to more than 152,000 TEUs year-over-year, while exports of empty containers rose nearly 23% to more than 70,900 TEUs.
August and September’s increases come as three vessel services — Maersk’s TP20, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM’s Indamex 2, and MSC’s Indus 2, made their first U.S. East Coast port calls, according to the port.
“The growth we’re seeing is not artificial, and the movement of loaded and empty containers is up, for both exports and imports,” said Stephen A. Edwards, Virginia Port Authority CEO and executive director. “Last September is when volumes began coming back, and since then we have posted growth each month. The operation is fluid and the Virginia Model of being an operating port, where we own, lease and operate all of the assets, allows us to be agile in meeting the needs of our customers and cargo owners.”
Edwards continued: “There is no congestion here and ocean carriers and cargo owners are taking notice of our track record and what we are doing to ensure consistency in our operation. We are maintaining our efficiency and service levels because we are monitoring the operation so closely and continuing to add modern assets. The result is that they are choosing Virginia because they see value here.”
All transport modes experienced year-over-year volume increases in September. The number of truck containers handled rose 25% to 110,452 TEUs, while barge containers rose over 9% to 7,141, although barge containers handled at the Richmond Marine Terminal fell nearly 41% year-over-year and 15% since August, to 2,495 TEUs. The terminal handles containers, temperature-controlled containers, break-bulk, bulk and neo-bulk cargo.
The number of rail containers handled rose 16% to 53,405 TEUs, although containers handled at the Virginia Inland Port at Front Royal fell 31% year-over-year and 18% since August, to 2,297 TEUs. The Virginia Inland Port, which is served by Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC), is 60 miles west of Washington and enhances service to Washington and Baltimore.
The port also handled 13% fewer vehicle units in September, with volume totaling 318 units.
The port expects volumes to remain elevated through the end of the year, with year-to-date volumes in September up 30% to 2.58 million TEUs.
“We may see a dip as the retail season comes to its end, but this is normal and any fall-off in volumes will be small,” Edwards said. “Looking into 2022 we see nothing that leads us to believe that there is going to be a drop in volumes. It is going to take some time before the supply chain returns to normal.”