“More and more of our customers are finding that our rail connections to and from these primary [Midwest] markets are among the best on the East Coast, in terms of transit time and overall efficiency,” said Thomas Capozzi, the port’s senior director of marketing. “Also, we are seeing extremely heavy export volume coming out of the industrialised Midwest as American-made products are becoming more competitive due to the weak dollar.”
In fiscal 2007 the port’s Midwest rail volume was 433,685 teu, compared with 414,508 teu in 2006, an increase of 4.6%. June was the port’s busiest month on record for Midwest rail volume, with 44,006 teu handled, and the week of June 22–28 saw a record weekly volume of 11,097 teu. Back in 2004, 22% of the port’s cargo was moved by rail. In 2005 the proportion was 24%; in 2006 it was 27%; and the January–June average for 2007 was 29%.
At the Virginia Inland Port (VIP), the VPA-owned intermodal facility in Front Royal, Va., 54,646 teu were handled in the first half of the year, a decline of 8,748 teu or 13.8% compared with the same period last year. The decline, though, can be attributed to the fact that VIP handled fewer empty containers. In the first six months of this year import loads grew by 8%, export loads were up 5% and empties dropped by 14%.
“While our overall volume is down, our movement of loaded containers is growing at a healthy pace,” Capozzi said. “This is significant because it means the VIP is establishing itself as a true intermodal routing point for both imports and exports. The steamship lines are doing a much better job of matching loads instead of repositioning empties prior to, or following the loaded move.”
Volumes are expected to be boosted further by the completion of the Heartland Corridor, a project jointly supported by the states of Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. This will allow double-stacked containers to be transported by rail between the VPA’s Hampton Roads terminal and locations in the Midwest by raising tunnel clearances and modifying other overhead obstructions.