Remarks by Thomas J. Eagar CEO, North Carolina State Ports Authority before the NC World Trade Association ’ Cape Fear Chapter November 6, Wrightsville Beach, NC
In fiscal 2007, which ended June 30, North Carolina’s Ports continued to build on robust growth that began in 2004, even as the rate of growth was tempered by the slowdown in US housing and other changes in the market. Container volumes recorded a 17-percent compounded annual growth rate, while general cargo posted a more modest 6% growth rate.
Among the Ports’ achievements in fiscal 2007:
- At the Port of Wilmington, the first phase of the container-terminal expansion was completed. Berth and dockside improvements were finished, and four new 100-foot gauge container cranes arrived in early February and went into service in April. The new cranes, along with nine new container handlers and the 42-foot deep Cape Fear River navigation channel signaled that the Port of Wilmington was ready to accommodate the largest container ships capable of transiting the Panama Canal. The Port’s longtime container-shipping partner, the CKYH Alliance, responded by moving larger ships into the rotation of its south China service and adding a second weekly service, linking north China directly with North Carolina over Wilmington.
- At the Port of Morehead City, construction of a new 177,000 square foot warehouse on the northwest corner of the terminal began. A Port-wide rail-improvement project neared completion with new rail installed on the port and in the switchyard, and road crossings upgraded. The Port’s main access road has been repaved. Demolition and clearing of the hurricane-damaged port operations center nearly doubled outside storage capacity.
- Continuing the State’s support for ongoing capital projects at the Ports, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $7.5 million for berth construction at the Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City. These projects are crucial to maintaining the Ports’ capabilities to continue to provide excellent service to North Carolina’s business community.
Business for the first quarter of this fiscal year is outperforming budget forecasts, with upticks in certain key commodities. Container volumes in Wilmington are growing, 22% over last year’s performance. At Morehead City, rubber volumes are up 25%, reflecting a sustained rebound from the effects of last year’s strike at Goodyear. Wilmington has picked up new export business from local industries, Invista and Elementis. A new forest products customer is on the horizon for Morehead City.
Progress is being made in short-term expansion projects. A new terminal operating system is up and running in Wilmington’s container yard to facilitate a high-velocity operation and increase container throughput capacity.
Morehead City’s new warehouse is open for business, with fencing lumber moving in even as the Ports Authority Board of Directors cut the ribbon to officially open the facility. Designed to the demanding specifications of the paper, lumber and steel industries, the warehouse greatly enhances the Port’s service to general cargo markets.
Longer term expansion projects also moved forward such as the port development on Radio Island and the new NC International Port in Brunswick County. With completion of the initial permitting and design for the Radio Island terminal in Morehead City, the Authority is evaluating proposals from potential private-sector partners. A pro forma business plan for the proposed NC International Port, on the west bank of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County, is being developed. And the Authority is working actively with the state’s Congressional delegation to obtain funding for the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Reconnaissance Study ’ the first step in identifying national interests and support for the new Port. The Authority also has engaged in discussions with potential private-sector partners for the International Port, and with the NC Department of Transportation and the US Depart