Cargo volume through the Port of Virginia fell more than 6% in fiscal year (FY) 2020 compared to a year earlier, as tariff wars and the Covid-19 pandemic created a year of obstacles, officials said Tuesday. 

The port handled 2.75 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in fiscal year 2020, ended June 30—off by more than 181,000 TEUs, officials said. Volume was flat through the first half of the year and the outlook in January had called for a rebound, but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“Our trade in the last half of FY20 fell-off significantly, with overall TEU volumes being down more than 12%, or 180,000 units,” John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said in a statement announcing the results. “Our average monthly TEU volume during the last half of the fiscal year was 212,000 units, versus 242,000 units for the same period in FY19. During the height of the pandemic there were 57 regularly scheduled vessel calls to Virginia that never happened because there wasn’t enough volume.”

Volume was down 12% year-over-year in June as well.

Though volumes suffered, officials said there were areas of business that boomed. The amount of cargo moving by barge to Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) and the overall barge volume grew, for instance. Container volume at RMT was up 22.5%, an increase of more than 7,500 units. Total barge volume (total units moved to RMT and Port of Baltimore by barge) was up almost 9%, or nearly 4,800 units, according to the port.

Officials said private investment inside the terminals grew as well.

“We did a lot of things right this past year, and keeping each other and our labor partners safe while maintaining the flow of cargo was among the most important accomplishments,” Reinhart said. “The cargo will come back, but it is going to take effort and patience. We’re working with our customers and cargo owners to understand their needs and to ensure we are ready to meet them. There is a lot of work ahead of us and we are up to the task.”


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