January cargo volume fell more than 5% year-over-year at the Port of Virginia, but loaded exports began a slight rebound in the face of the changing trade environment, port officials said Monday.
Port of Virginia Executive Director and CEO John F. Reinhart credited the lifting of trade tariffs in January with a nearly 2% increase in loaded export cargo volumes, saying that agricultural products are beginning to flow to China again. At the same time, he said port officials are monitoring developments in Asia as the coronavirus outbreak continues to affect supply lines in and out of the region.
"We are speaking with our ship line customers to better understand their operating posture, expectations, and needs as the coronavirus issue continues to unfold," Reinhart said in a statement announcing January's results. "We know that ship calls at, or through, some Chinese ports are down and we are closely monitoring, along with our federal partners, to see if this situation is going to have an effect on our cargo volumes. What we are seeing is fewer and fewer empties being repositioned for loading in Asia as a result."
January's cargo volumes were down more than 5% to 12,877 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) when compared with January 2019. Loaded exports were up nearly 1,400 TEUs, or 1.8%, and the volume at Richmond Marine Terminal grew by nearly 250 units, or 7.3%, port officials said.
Empty containers for export fell more than 27% to 13,882 TEUs as a result of the uncertainty being created by the coronavirus, an increase in blank sailings, an extension of the Chinese Lunar New Year closures, and quarantines in China, officials also said.