By Robert McCabe, The Virginian-Pilot
The Port of Virginia took a big step on Monday, setting in motion work on the first of two big expansion projects that will boost cargo-container capacity significantly.
Survey crews started preparations to expand the rail/container-stacking yards at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, the second-largest of the port’s two big container terminals.
When work is completed there and at the port’s other big facility – Norfolk International Terminals – in 2020, the port will have grown its cargo-container capacity from roughly 2.7 million containers to roughly 4.4 million. The industry standard is 20-foot units, or TEUs.
“This is an important day in the history of the Port of Virginia,” said John Reinhart, the executive director and CEO of the Virginia Port Authority, in a statement. “It is an important milestone in our effort to increase sustainability and to prepare this port for what is to come. We are adding capacity now so we can handle the cargo that will be coming to us in the very near future.”
In 2016, the port moved more than 2.65 million TEUs.
The Portsmouth terminal now can handle a little more than 1.1 million TEUs. When the expansion work is done in three years, it will be able to handle roughly 2 million units.
Expansions of the stack-container yard and the rail yard are two of the components of the work to unfold at Virginia International Gateway. In addition, 650 feet will be added to the wharf, which will get four more Suez-class cranes . Work on the wharf is expected to start March 15 and wrap up next winter.
Work on the terminal gate is planned, too, which will add four additional inbound gate lanes.
The $320 million expansion project was made possible by the signing of a new, nearly 50-year lease in September. The lease took effect in mid-November. The facility is owned by Virginia International Gateway LLC.
In July, the port is expected to start work on its other big expansion initiative at NIT. Last year, the General Assembly approved a $350 million state-backed bond deal to fund the improvements.
NIT, which can now handle about 1.42 million TEUs, will be able to move about 2.1 million TEUs when the project is complete.