Port of Virginia sees cargo volume drop in May, collapse to continue through August | 2020-06-15
The Port of Virginia said today that cargo volume in May fell 22.7% to its largest year-over-year decline since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the trend could continue through August as container ships persist in canceling trips.
The amount of cargo passing through the port’s terminals in May decreased by more than 59,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) compared to the same month in 2019, from 146,018 to 112,913.
Seen through a longer lens, the port has now seen a 13.0% drop for its calendar year to date (January to May) and a 6.4% drop for its fiscal year to date (from July to May). However, the full effect of the virus remains to be seen, as most of the impact of these statistics comes from a limited number of months. The World Health Organization (WHO) first declared Covid-19 a global pandemic on March 11, followed by foreclosure orders March 20 in California and March 30 in Virginia, among others.
“This is a significant loss in volume that is being felt throughout the organization and the situation is similar across the shipping industry,” said John Reinhart, CEO and Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority, in a statement. “We expect this trend to continue until the end of the summer as our customers tell us that the dry runs will continue until early September. Blank crossings were supposed to calm down in early August, but shipping lines tell us the volume just isn’t there yet. Our economy is waking up and we are optimistic about the future, but the recovery will take time and patience. “
While the flow of physical goods to the facility has slowed considerably, the port is still investing in initiatives such as infrastructure improvement projects and on supporting the civil rights of minority citizens and port employees.
Infrastructure work includes progress on the expansion of the south side container storage yard of Norfolk International Terminals (NIT), the 55 foot canal project and the Orsted offshore wind project at Portsmouth Marine Terminal (PMT ), indicated the port. Specifically, the last group of automated stacker cranes arrived in May, as NIT completes its expansion this fall. The site canal dredging project is progressing in advance and PMT is preparing the arrival of Orsted at the end of 2020.
According to the port, it also supports the effort “to address the realities of systemic racist practices and injustice that are part of the daily lives of black Americans.” This issue was brought to the nation’s discussion about three weeks ago, following the death of George Floyd, the black man who was kept in an extended stranglehold by Minneapolis police officers. To mark this event, dockworkers at several ports halted work last week for nearly nine minutes, corresponding to when Floyd was pinned to the ground.
The Port of Virginia says it also participated in the protest by joining union workers and industry peers in supporting an hour of reflection on Floyd’s death. “This effort is as important as anything we are doing right now,” Reinhart said in a statement. “We need to show each other and our communities that we are determined to face the realities of our system and that we are committed to our values and to each other. We stand in solidarity with the black community in the fight against an age-old model of violence and repression. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we cannot be put off by it. Open, honest and compassionate dialogue with one another and a willingness to listen and learn are the beginnings of positive change.
We, the colleagues at The Port of Virginia, remain committed to our values and to each other, and stand in solidarity with the black community in the fight against an age-old model of violence and repression. #Black lives matter #We are all fighting together pic.twitter.com/G3DP59r6Xw
– The Port of Virginia (@PortofVirginia) June 4, 2020