By Robert McCabe, The Virginian-Pilot
The port broke its single-month record for container volume in August, making it the busiest month in its history, the Port of Virginia announced Tuesday.
A total of 235,511 containers, measured in standard 20-foot units, or TEUs, moved through the port, a 7 percent increase from the same month a year ago.
August marked the seventh consecutive month of container volumes of more than 210,000 TEUs.
The port’s previous one-month volume record was set in October. Last month’s results improved on that by a little more than 2,000 units.
John Reinhart, executive director and CEO of the Virginia Port Authority, said the peak season is under way and that volumes are on track to break last year’s calendar-year record of 2.5 million TEUs.
“Our productivity across the operation continues to trend in positive territory, and for the first time in our history, our monthly rail volume exceeded 50,000 units,” Reinhart said in a statement.
”Further, our import volume in August was up 12 percent and exports up 3 percent.”
Rail-container volume for the month – at 50,389 – was up 20 percent year-over-year, while truck volume was flat, at 0.4 percent.
From January through August, the port’s TEU volume is up about 2 percent from the same period a year ago; rail-container volume is up 11.3 percent; and truck-container volume is down 3.4 percent.
The port is moving into a period of expansion and construction, Reinhart noted.
The North Gate project at Norfolk International Terminals will create 26 new gates for trucks and is expected to be complete by the middle of 2017.
Before then, port officials will break ground on a $350 million expansion project, also at Norfolk International Terminals, that will enable the facility to handle an additional 696,000 TEUs.
Its current capacity is about 1.4 million units.
A state-backed bond deal included in Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget, approved by the General Assembly this year, is providing the funding for the second of the two projects.
Reinhart also said the renegotiation of the lease of Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth is “productive and, we believe, nearing its final phase.”
Six years ago, the port signed a 20-year, $1 billion-plus lease of the complex.
What’s now on the table is resetting the lease, extending it to 50 years beyond whenever the deal would be signed. The reworked lease would include an option that could lead to the purchase of the terminal.
Assuming the lease extension unfolds as planned, the rent would increase significantly to help pay for a roughly $320 million expansion of the facility that would double its capacity.
The complex has a capacity of 1.1 million TEUs.