Diverted cargo sets record for moves from single vessel at the Port of Virginia
The Port of Virginia is no longer receiving diverted vessels or cargo and is now focused on evacuating the additional cargo that came to Virginia as a result of the disruption in US East Coast trade caused by Hurricane Sandy.
During the week-long closure of the Port of New York and New Jersey brought about by the storm, Virginia worked two diverted vessels and handled between 5,800 and 6,500 additional import containers that would have normally landed in that Northeast hub (an exact amount is not yet available). Also, 3,500 automobiles bound for New York and New Jersey came off in Virginia.
“We’re extremely busy dealing with the backlog of cargo and it is going to take some time to get completely back to normal,” said Rodney W. Oliver, interim executive direction of the Virginia Port Authority. “We are working to move the cargo to its destination by any means available: truck, rail and barge.”
The majority of the displaced cargo most likely will move to the Northeast by rail, port officials said, because there are multiple challenges facing motor carriers headed to that area. Additionally, two ocean carriers are using Columbia Coastal Transport to move more than 1,200 containers to New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia by barge.
“We also have the ability to do additional voyages as needed in an effort to alleviate any congestion in Norfolk,” said Joe Villa, vice president of operations for Columbia Coastal.
Port officials do not have an estimate as to when the terminals will be cleared of the diverted cargo, though about 1,400 containers have already been evacuated.
A byproduct of the storm was port setting a record for the most container moves on/off a single vessel, the majority of which were diverted containers. As scheduled, last Friday (Nov. 2) the Axel Maersk arrived at APM Terminals in Portsmouth but the number of containers handled was anything but normal: 4,736, the majority of which were imports.
“We were tested last week and it was not a test of our ability to handle cargo, rather it was a show of what we are capable of and what we did during those few days on such short notice is a testament to planning, teamwork, communication and a willingness to get the job done,” said Joseph A. Dorto, the president of Virginia International Terminals Inc., the VPA’s private terminal operating company.