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Virginia Maritime Association's History


The Virginia's ports have been a boon to Virginia and the world for nearly four centuries. From the early founding as "America's First Port" at Jamestown in 1607 through the era of the great clipper ships to the present day sophistication of computerized inter-modal technology, Virginia has been at the forefront of every major change in the shipping industry.

The early growth of the Commonwealth was due to the cooperative effort of private and public servants, each investing their time to strengthen the outlook for Virginia’s future. Soon commerce and trade began to flourish.

The Virginia Maritime Association was organized in 1920 to promote, protect and encourage international and domestic commerce through Virginia’s Ports. First known was the Norfolk Maritime Exchange (1920), the association has undergone several name changes reflecting the growth and influence throughout the region and Commonwealth- Hampton Roads Maritime Exchange (1922), Hampton Roads Maritime Association (1945) to present day Virginia Maritime Association (2006).

The Virginia Maritime Association seeks and advocates for the continued growth of Virginia’s maritime industries and plays a significant leadership role to ensure that Virginia remains competitive as it relates to waterborne commerce.

Highlights of advocacy and historical milestones by the Association throughout the years: 

1920-  13 February, 56 maritime business leaders sign as the founding members of the Norfolk Maritime Exchange.
-  Exchange actively persists and purchase of fire-boat to protect port.

- Recommendation to Congress to fund Norfolk Harbor project and Thimble Shoal Channel.

- Requests and achieves funding from Congress for channel improvements for Southern and Eastern Branches

           of Elizabeth River.

1928-  Exchange obtains authorization for additional anchorage off Lambert's Point to manage increased demands.
1936-  Installation of bulk cargo handling facilities, placing port in forefront of the ports on Atlantic coast.
1939-  Exchange lends aid to the development of a Municipal airport in Norfolk.
1941-  Committee established to address ways to aid the government defense program in World War II.
1956-  Quote from 1956 Annual " This was a banner year.  Never before in the long history of the port, has there been
           as much
business, as many ports, as many new and expanded facilities and services, as many ships loading
           and unloading, or
sailing to as many ports, as many people earning a living on maritime activities, nor a keener
           understanding of the value
of the port to the community and the State."
1957- The $6.5 million Craney Island Disposal area, initiated and sponsored by the HRMA placed in operation.
1966- Harry M. Thompson, executive vice president and secretary retires after 46 years of service to the Association.
1977- Lack of proper state funding for port development is impetus for HRMA to employ a legislative representative
          in Richmond.

1981- Many factors have contributed to the port's phenomenal growth, but none is as important as unification of the
          ports in the
Hampton Roads harbor. In 1981, the Virginia General Assembly passed landmark legislation
          designed to unify the ports
under a single agency, the Virginia Port Authority, with a new single operating
          company, Virginia International Terminals, Inc.
Unification has made Hampton Roads one of the fastest
          growing port complexes in the United States.

1986- After years of advocacy by HRMA, legislation passed authorizing 55-foot channel project for Hampton Roads.
1993- HRMA awarded the President's "E Star" Award for export service by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
2003- Defended against a major initiative to tax waterfront pier owners retroactively and prospectively that would
          have cost the
industry millions of dollars annually.  VMA efforts resulted in a statutory exemption for the
          maritime industry.

2008- Secured state funding to enable construction of the Heartland Corridor project designed to significantly
          reduce transit
times to the Midwest market.
2013- Reacted to unsolicited proposals for privatization of the state-owned terminals.  The General Assembly took
          three actions
related to privatization of the operations at state-owned terminals: 1) Legislation was passed that
          will institute reforms
at VPA/VIT designed to eliminate redundancy and reduce expenses.  This legislation also
          prevents the Commonwealth
from accepting unsolicited proposals under the PPTA for VPA facilities and
          operations while preserving its ability to partner
with the private sector. 2) The Joint Legislative Audit and
          Review Committee (JLARC) is directed to study the port’s
competitiveness, efficiency and governance structure
          and report its findings to the General Assembly. 3) Lawmakers
amended the state budget to include language
          prohibiting any sale or lease of the Port of Virginia until a comprehensive
study of port operations has been
          completed, and any such sale or lease has been subsequently approved by the
General Assembly. 
2014- The General Assembly amended the Code of Virginia relating to the Board of Commissioners of the VPA to
           specify "
the Governor shall appoint at least one member with maritime shipping experience from a list of at
           least three nominees p
rovided by the Virginia Maritime Association, who shall not be a paid member of the
           Virginia Maritime Association or have
any other conflict of interest with the Virginia Port Authority.” This
           change was sought by VMA to ensure the maritime
community would always have representation on the
           Virginia Port Authority Board.

2016-  Virginia General Assembly appropriates $350 million in funding toward capital improvements for Norfolk
Terminals.  This one time funding is the largest single allocation of state funds toward port
           infrastructure to date.


Thank you to our Anchor Members



Virginia Maritime Association
236 E. Plume Street Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone: 757-622-2639
Fax: 757-622-6302