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The Port of Virginia plans to increase its capacity from 2.5 million containers to 2.95 million within the next five years.
The Virginia Beach City Council was briefed this week on the port’s five-year plan, which includes a design to accommodate 400,000 additional containers at Norfolk International Terminals. The $350 million state investment for the project is the “single largest investment made by the state in recent years,” Sarah McCoy, manager of community and government affairs for the Port of Virginia, said later in an interview.
“If we don’t have the capacity to handle more cargo, it’s hard for cities like Virginia Beach to go out and market to businesses and engage in international trade,” she said.
The port also plans to update Virginia International Gateway to accommodate 1.2 million containers and purchase four new container cranes. Shippers are looking for larger vessels that can do in a single trip what smaller ships need multiple loads to accomplish, McCoy said.
The port’s 10-year plan seeks total port capacity of 3.5 million containers. Its 20-year-plan seeks a 5.5 million-container capacity.
Officials expect demand to rise to the point where large orders require the port to accommodate 3,000 containers instead of a thousand in the past, McCoy said. The Port will employ sleeker cranes for denser yards, and stack more containers in smaller spaces, she said. Further plans include dredging the harbor an additional 5 feet; current port depths are 50 feet.
In the fiscal year that ended last summer, 90,000 tons of cargo shipped from Virginia Beach through the port, according to McCoy’s report. Scott Hall, the city’s business development coordinator, said accommodating larger shipments is becoming a necessity for international business.
“The continued success of the Port means our companies (whether existing or those we are trying to recruit) have broader access to global markets, which translates directly into their long term business sustainability,” Hall said in an email. “Which means jobs and investment here locally. More and more companies are realizing that accessing new foreign markets is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ ability, but rather a necessity.”
Virginia Beach businesses engaging in the largest volume of international shipping through the port include: