Over 130,000 containers have been moved by barge between Virginia and Richmond in the past decade.
The Port of Virginia is celbrating the 10th anniversary of the barge service connecting its terminals in Norfolk Harbour to a marine terminal in Richmond, some 100 miles up the James River. “Over the 12 months of 2008, a total of 149 containers were loaded onto a barge -- retrofitted to handle containers -- and made the journey along the James River to what was then called the Port of Richmond. Now, 10 years later, more than 130,000 containers have made the trip up and down the river,” the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) noted.
The barge service has an interesting history. In 2008 the Port of Richmond had not handled a vessel in two years and was largely idle. The service to Virginia was initiated by the VPA and the City of Richmond, with the help of funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RRTPO). The first barge carried just 14 containers on chassis.
Volume has grown steadily and the VPA has been instrumental in supporting the service at key points. In 2011 the VPA took over the Port of Richmond, signing a five-year lease on the site. That was extended to a 40-year lease in 2016 to support the VPA investing in a berth upgrade, a new mobile harbour crane and other equipment. A second barge with 40 reefer plugs was added in 2016 and a third barge has now been purchased.
Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) is run as a terminal of the VPA, and 14 ocean carriers today offer bills of lading with RMT as the origin or destination. There are now three weekly services and annual volume for the first 11 months of 2018 reached almost 30,000 containers.
“What has been achieved by leveraging the barge is a real accomplishment,” says John F. Reinhart, the CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA). “Because of the success that we’re having, we are increasing the number of sailings per week. In turn, we’re accelerating our investment in the terminal, which leads to economic investment and job creation in the immediate area.
“This operation,” Reinhart continued, “has set the standard for how to develop a sustainable barge service. Richmond is maturing into an important inland transit point for cargo and has become integral to our operation.”
“Increasing barge shipments to Richmond is a huge benefit to the Commonwealth,” added Andreas Addison, the First District representative on Richmond City Council. “Shipping more than 130,000 containers on the barge reduces traffic congestion in Hampton Roads and along I-64 while increasing access to new industries and jobs in Richmond. We have only just begun to realise the potential this expansion of the Richmond Express can bring.”