Expansion of port is crucial for region
Friday, March 2, 2018
This piece by the Virginia Maritime Association's Executive Vice President, Art Moye, Jr., was featured as guest column in at PilotOnline.com.
Arthur W. Moye Jr.: Expansion of Port is Crucial for Region
Read at Pilotonline.com
THE ECONOMIC PROSPECTS for our region and commonwealth are directly connected to how well our port functions and competes.
Today, port-related activities account for more than 530,000 jobs statewide and 10.1 percent of our gross state product. Just last year, there were 45 port-related economic development announcements across the commonwealth, representing over $1.6 billion in new investment and more than 6,300 new jobs.
At 50 feet, the Port of Virginia remains one of the deepest harbors on the U.S. East Coast, and is the fifth largest container port in the nation. The southern branch of the Elizabeth River supports a diverse trade of bulk commodities. We boast the largest concentration of ship repair and ship building in the nation. Norfolk is also home to the world’s largest naval base, one of the nation’s 13 strategic ports, and home to the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
The largest container ships and coal carriers calling on the East Coast call on the Port of Virginia. The expansion of the Panama Canal and growth in trade have resulted in ship lines deploying Ultra Large Container Vessels to achieve economies of scale. Since 2014, vessels calling on the Port of Virginia have grown from holding 8,000 containers to holding 14,400 containers, and larger vessels are on the horizon.
Commerce and our Navy rely on efficient two-way ship traffic, but for these mammoth ships, the Coast Guard must restrict our shipping channels to one-way traffic for up to four hours for each arrival and departure.
Billions of dollars are being spent on channel improvement projects in competing East Coast states to accommodate these larger ships, and by 2020 the Port of Charleston will have a 52-foot harbor. South Carolina will then offer the deepest harbor on the East Coast, taking a competitive advantage held by Virginia since the establishment of Jamestown.
To accommodate the larger ships and continue to drive economic growth, we must widen and deepen our channels. We are well on our way to doing that. The Army Corps of Engineers supports deepening our harbor and channels to 55 feet, projecting a return of nearly $5 in economic benefits for each dollar invested.
Gov. Ralph Northam, the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate have all agreed to provide $20 million in preliminary engineering and design funds so the widening and deepening can get under way.
The House of Delegates also has recommended authorizing $330 million in bonds to fully fund the state’s portion of the project.
Our elected officials recognize that in order for our region and commonwealth to grow, our port must continue to remain competitive on the global stage, and the widening and deepening of our harbor and channels is a priority. It is imperative that the General Assembly fully authorize the funding for this project so the Port of Virginia can continue to move cargo efficiently and economically, serve as a catalyst for job creation, and reduce costs for Virginia businesses and consumers.