We asked leaders in Virginia’s maritime and logistics industry for their thoughts on
the Port of Virginia expansion and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on shipping.
Click to expand photos. Interviews follow.
VB: How will the Port of Virginia expansion impact Virginia’s economy?
Adams: The Central Chapter encompasses the area around Richmond and is at the crossroads of two interstate highways and home to an extension of the terminals in Norfolk with the barge service on the James River. The region continues to see companies locate and expand here. As companies that require imports or exports to support their business, they seek reliable transportation infrastructure for both today and for the future. They cite our region and its proximity to the Port of Virginia as a key element of their overall supply chain.
VB: What is top of mind for members of your chapter?
Adams: The Central Chapter is very diverse in terms of its membership. We have importers and exporters, but we also have lawyers, financiers, security companies, consultants, economic development advisers, truckers and ocean carriers. The factor and concern that is common to all, however, is disruption of the maritime industry. This disruption takes many forms, to include tariffs, pandemics, clean fuel directives, financial stability and carrier consolidation.
VB: How will the Port of Virginia expansion aid your region?
Anders: The Shenandoah Valley will continue to benefit from increased port capacity, as we are somewhat “bookended” with access to the ocean terminals via I-64 to the south and through the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal to the north. [The port’s] current deepening to 55 feet and widening will keep us on the preferential ship calls for years to come.
VB: What is top of mind for your chapter members?
Anders: The ability of the maritime industry to navigate the coronavirus storm that is affecting global supply chains, ocean sailings and ship capacities.
VB: What is your chapter’s primary goal for 2020?
Anders: We need to continue to develop our focus and broaden our membership base. Further communication is needed regarding the role of the ports, and we need to familiarize our constituents on what happens in Hampton Roads.
VB: How do you expect the expansion of the Port of Virginia to impact Southern Virginia?
Clark: Based on the proximity of our region from the Port of Virginia terminals in Norfolk, a driver can only make one round trip per day. The enhancement of accessibility with container operations at each terminal will help decrease turn time for drivers and ensure efficiency within the cargo owners’ overall supply chain and also help decrease financial impacts that result from a delayed delivery.
VB: What is your chapter’s primary goal in 2020?
Clark: One of our primary goals for the Southern Chapter is to increase maritime awareness through educational opportunities with local commerce and economic development leaders in our area. Most companies who are engaged in international trade have relationships with local economic development partners. Since there is a lack of educational resources within our area related to international trade, it is crucial to have their involvement to offer resourceful information regarding the maritime industry and help promote trade through Virginia ports.
VB: What 21st-century skills are most in demand now for shipbuilding?
McCane: Newport News Shipbuilding currently is undergoing a massive digital revolution, with the introduction of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, 3-D printing and augmented and virtual reality. The digital shipbuilding efforts also include transitioning from traditional two-dimensional paper-based instructions … to digital formats. This is transforming the way that ships are being designed and built.
VB: How many applications do you receive, and what do you expect of students?
McCane: Annually, we receive more than 3,000 applications for approximately 200 slots at The Apprentice School. … To be competitive, we advise prospective apprentices to [have] strong math and computer skills — [these] skill sets are needed to build America’s next-generation aircraft carriers and submarines. The Apprentice School, in conjunction with New Horizons Regional Education Centers, is piloting a new, pre-apprenticeship program called Youth Builders that provides math enrichment and workplace learning activities to increase a high school student’s likelihood to qualify for a paid apprenticeship at Newport News Shipbuilding.
VB: How do you expect the expansion of the Port of Virginia to affect your region?
Peel: The expansion of the state container terminals [Virginia International Gateway] and [Norfolk International Terminals] provides the opportunity for additional economic growth in Southwest Virginia, encouraging companies to build or expand. But with growth does come adjustment. As the ships get larger, offloading more containers at one time, the supply chain has to adapt. For this region, that impacts transportation and warehousing capacity.
VB: What is top of mind for the members of your chapter, in terms of factors affecting the maritime industry?
Peel: In Southwest Virginia, transportation infrastructure continues to be on the top of industries’ mind[s]. Interstate 81 improvement projects will be a positive impact for the industry, along with routes 460 and 58. Also, coronavirus has to be everyone’s No. 1 [priority] at the moment. One of my clients had to change from airfreight to less than container load (LCL) [shipping methods] due to the virus. This required them to shut down for about three weeks while waiting on parts to come in.
VB: What is the port’s biggest goal for 2020?
Reinhart: One, get down the coronavirus. We have to manage through this and make sure we are being transparent and talking with everyone. That’s the near term. Then do any other maintenance that we need to do, so the equipment is in perfect condition when the trade volumes [rebound following the outbreak]. Also, keep operating in an efficient way, but we need to change a few more hours to reduce costs until we see business pop back. Finally, finishing our construction at [Norfolk International Terminals], which is slated for the fall of this year.
VB: How is the dredging project going at Thimble Shoal Channel, which started in December 2019?
Reinhart: Start to finish, you do it in segments. You’re doing all the engineering and design work for the next segment while you’re dredging this segment. What you want to do is stay continuous with the dredge [equipment] so we don’t have to mobilize and demobilize. There are some periods where you have to stop dredging because of wildlife migrations and things, but you want to keep [barges] basically here [in the harbor].