The Virginia Port Authority board of commissioners approved the lease agreement with the Port of Richmond to take over operations at the James River port and thereby unify all container cargo terminals in the commonwealth under the VPA flag.
The VPA’s terminals in Hampton Roads, 60 miles down the James River from Richmond, are linked to the Port of Richmond by a container-on-barge service that moves about 200 containers per week.
VPA officials believe the weekly barge service can be expanded to twice weekly, possibly starting in mid-August. “This is an opportunity for the port to expand its contributions to the commonwealth on multiple levels: having all the terminals under the VPA’s direction contributes to the economic vitality of the state,” said Jerry Bridges, the VPA’s executive director.
“It will provide congestion relief on Interstate 64 by reducing truck trips and moving some containers between Hampton Roads and Richmond by barge; and along those same lines, this will be good for the environment in terms of reduced emissions,” he said.
The takeover of operations is scheduled for July 1. The VPA will retain Port Contractors as the terminal operating company, under a five-year, $75,000-a-year lease with a renewal option at the end.
Richmond lost its only ocean container service in March 2009 when Richmond-based Independent Container Lines switched calls to the Port of Wilmington, N.C., because it had maxed out on the size of the ships it could bring up the James River.
“An expanded barge service has drawn interest from customers that move overweight cargo or cargo that is not time-sensitive,” said J.J. Keever, the VPA’s senior deputy executive director. “Bringing the Port of Richmond aboard gives us the opportunity to try some innovative things with the barge that we think will attract interest from shippers and private investment that seek to capitalize on the Port of Richmond given its proximity to I-95 and its water link to Hampton Roads.”