International ports convention returns to Norfolk
American Association of Port Authorities expo is Oct. 13-16
In October the Port of Virginia will play host to the 108th annual American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Convention and Expo, which will be held at the Hilton Norfolk The Main hotel.
It will be the fifth time over the last 93 years that the convention representing the Western Hemisphere’s ports industry has convened in Norfolk.
“We’ve been at this for a long time,” says Aaron Ellis, public affairs director for the Alexandria-based international trade association.
The AAPA represents 130 seaport authorities and 200 associated organizations from the United States, Canada, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Its first convention was held in December 1912 in New York City. Last year, it met in Valparaíso, Chile.
Focusing on topics such as economic development, trade, technology and coastal resiliency, this year’s event in Norfolk is expected to draw 500 to 600 attendees and more than 80 exhibitors. Ludovic Renou, president of Norfolk-based cargo carrier CMA CGM America LLC, will deliver the keynote address.
The Port of Virginia “is just a fabulous port. It’s got everything that is of interest to somebody in the port industry,” Ellis says. “It’s got one of the deepest channels in the country; it’s got a huge Navy presence. There are just so many aspects that make Norfolk a good [ports industry] calling card, if you will.”
The convention’s theme will be “Revolutionizing America’s First Port,” a nod to the Virginia ports industry’s origins, which reach back to the early 1600s in colonial Jamestown. The AAPA convention was last held in Virginia in 2007, the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding.
“The Port of Virginia has literally been America’s first port for over 400 years,” says Jay Stecher, the Port of Virginia’s vice president of marketing and communications. “If you think about what they were doing at that time to what we’re doing now — the investments we’re making in people, in technology and equipment and what the future is going to bring — we think it’s going to be an interesting theme.”
And with the port having just completed a $320 million expansion of its Virginia International Gateway facility in Portsmouth, complete with the East Coast’s largest ship-to-shore cranes, Virginia has a lot to show off at the convention.
“[It’s] one of the reasons we’re so excited about having the convention in Norfolk this year,” Stecher says. “The timing was perfect to showcase all the benefits [the Port of Virginia has] to share with the maritime industry.”