The Port of Virginia moved nearly 30,000 containers from cargo terminals in Norfolk Harbor to its marine terminal in Richmond, Va., during 2018, marking record volume in its barge service, port authority officials said Thursday.
The figures show steady growth since the port launched its Richmond Barge Service 10 years ago, moving a total of just 149 containers in 2008 on a barge that had been retrofitted to handle containers, the port said.
Over the entire decade, more than 130,000 containers have been processed at the Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT), including units moving both up and down the river. And 14 ocean carriers now offer bills of lading with RMT as the final destination or point of origin for cargo, the port says.
In response to that growing demand, the port added a second barge in 2016, configured for refrigerated containers, and has deployed a third barge to boost the number of sailings from one- to three-times a week. The facility is also attracting logistics development, with two large speculative warehouses now under construction in the RMT area and a third project underway by an unnamed, European-based, grocer that is making inroads along the U.S. East Coast, port leaders said.
The Port of Richmond initially launched its barge service as an effort to jumpstart business at the port, which had ceased service on its wharf during the Great Recession of 2008 and was then reduced to servicing just a small number of truck moves and leasing some space on-terminal for storage, officials said. The first barge left Norfolk Harbor bound for Richmond in January 2008, carrying 14 containers and chassis.
"This operation has set the standard for how to develop a sustainable barge service," John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA), said in a release. "Richmond is maturing into an important inland transit point for cargo and has become integral to our operation."
The growth of barge service to RMT comes just weeks after port officials announced that the Port of Virginia had set a new monthly record, processing more than 270,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in October and was moving forward with capacity expansion projects at its Virginia International Gateway (VIG) and Norfolk International Terminals (NIT) sites.