The Port of Virginia operates a barge service three times a week linking its Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) with its terminals in Portsmouth and Norfolk. With US$466,747 in grant funding from the federal government’s Marine Highway Projects grant programme and $119,186 in its own funds the port has purchased a 52,000lb capacity forklift and a portable genset system for its barge that can power up to 40 reefer containers. The power unit cost $222,700 and the forklift $373,234.
“We have several current and potential users of RMT that are in the food and beverage, refrigerated and discount grocery industry that are expressing interest in using the barge to move reefer (refrigerated) cargo,” said John. F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “The power unit enables us to provide a more comprehensive level of barge service to current and potential customers and continue to serve as a catalyst for commerce in the Richmond metro area and beyond.”
Virginia, along with the other major US East Coast ports, is participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot programme to support growth in produce imports from South America.
The port said the new 52,000 Lb forklift “is part of the ongoing investment at RMT and opens up the possibility for new heavy, or overweight cargo, business”. In comments to WorldCargo News port spokesman Joe Harris explained that the forklift will not be used to handle containers, but to stuff or unload containers and handle break bulk cargo. RMT has recently handled break bulk, including large brewery tanks.
“Both of these investments will create more opportunities to diversify and grow our cargo mix, drive business on the barge and across RMT. We are grateful for the federal government’s recognition of the effectiveness of the barge service and the growing importance of RMT in America’s Marine Highway Program,” said Rienhart.
While other attempts to start container barge services in the US have foundered, RMT has proved a success. Last year the port launched a new barge, the Richmond Express, with a capacity for 125 40’ containers. To handle containers RMT operates top picks and a new Liebherr mobile harbour crane. Over the year to the end of November RMT handled 21,491 containers, a 25% increase on 2016. Each container saves one gate move in Virginia and eliminates one truck journey on the I-94.