InterChange President Devon Anders wrote a piece about the Port of Virginia that was published in the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record on March 3.
In a letter to the editor Anders, who also serves as the Chairman of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Virginia Maritime Association, comments on the continued business growth of the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Inland Port, calling for even more growth to be fostered by widening and deepening the port to allow for larger ships.
The letter can be read online at this link. The full text of the letter follows.
I’ve been pleased to watch and participate in the business growth and investment in the Shenandoah Valley as a result of our region’s connection to the Port of Virginia through the Virginia Inland Port. Looking across all of the Commonwealth, port related activities contribute 530,800 jobs statewide and account for 10.1% of gross state product. Just last year (2017), there were forty-five port-related economic development announcements across the Commonwealth representing over $1.6B in new investment and over 6,300 new jobs for Virginians.
At 50 feet, the Port of Virginia currently offers the deepest harbor on the US East Coast and is the fifth largest container port in the nation. In addition to containers full of imports and Virginia-made exports, bulk ships leave our port daily carrying Virginia’s agricultural and manufactured products to consumers and exported coal to markets across the globe..
The largest container ships and coal carriers calling on the US East Coast call on the Port of Virginia. The expansion of the Panama Canal and growth in trade has resulted in ship lines deploying Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) to achieve economies of scale. Since 2014, vessels calling on The Port of Virginia have grown from 8,000 containers to 14,400 containers, and larger ships are on the horizon.
For these mammoth ships the Coast Guard must now restrict Virginia’s shipping channels to one-way traffic for up to four hours for each arrival and departure. Commerce and the Navy rely on efficient two-way ship traffic. Billions of dollars are being spent on channel improvement projects in competing East Coast states in order to accommodate these ships and by 2020 the Port of Charleston will have a 52-foot harbor. South Carolina will offer the deepest harbor on the US East Coast – a competitive advantage of Virginia’s since the establishment of Jamestown by the Virginia Company.
To accommodate these larger ships and continue to drive Virginia’s economy, we must widen and deepen our channels and we are well on our way to doing that. The Army Corps of Engineers supports widening and deepening our channels to 55 feet, projecting a return of nearly $5 in economic benefits for each dollar invested. The Governor, the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate have all agreed to fund $20 million in preliminary engineering and design funds so the widening and deepening can get underway. The House of Delegates has also recommended authorizing $330 million in bonds to fund the construction of the widening and deepening.
Our elected officials recognize that in order for Virginia to continue to grow, it must continue to remain competitive on the global stage and the widening and deepening of our harbor and approach channels is a priority. It is imperative that the General Assembly fully authorize the funding for this project so the Port of Virginia can continue to move cargo efficiently and economically, serve as a catalyst for job creation, and reduce costs for Virginia businesses and consumers.
Chairman, Shenandoah Valley Chapter
President, InterChange Group, Inc.