At the Port of Virginia, 2019 will be a transitional year. It will present multiple challenges, but understanding the issues and our mindful, data-driven approach to problem-solving ultimately sets us up for success.
Two interrelated issues over the next year will provide us with challenges and opportunities: rising tariffs and construction at our two largest container terminals.
We ended 2018 with record volumes as cargo rushed ashore to beat the new tariff rate. But as the new year begins and some cargo owners face potential 25 percent tariffs, we may see a short-term decline in our container volumes.
While increased tariffs may result in temporarily decreased volumes, we are focusing on diversifying our cargo mix as set forth in our strategic growth plan. Our multi-use/ro-ro/breakbulk cargo terminals in Newport News and Portsmouth continue to be a destination for cargo from the alternative energy sector, major automotive manufacturers, and cargo that supports our armed forces. Our recent London Metal Exchange certification has opened us to multiple new opportunities as well.
Construction at Virginia International Gateway will be complete by June 2019, nearly doubling the capacity at the terminal to 1.2 million containers annually. Across the river at the south end of Norfolk International Terminals, more than half of the 30 new RMG-operated container stacks will be online — providing even more capacity than the original configuration of that section of the terminal.
Further, we’ll go from two ultra-large container ship berths to six between the two terminals. As construction progresses, we are focusing on the safety of everyone on our terminals and the seamless integration of the new capacity into the cargo operations.