Norfolk – Virginia Port Authority (VPA) officials are confident that a third sailing of the container-on-barge service that connects the Hampton Roads Harbor with the Port of Richmond will be a factor in doubling the volume of cargo moved by the service.
This week a third trip will be added to the weekly barge service; the service will call the Port of Richmond Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The barges can carry between 80 and 100 containers, depending on their lengths.
"Adding a third sailing along with an overall increase in customers that are considering the barge as a means of transporting their cargo sets it up for success going forward," said Rodney W. Oliver, the VPA's interim executive director. "This started out very small: one time a week and a few containers at a time. The next step is to get it to five days a week."
So far this year (through August), 6,227 containers have moved on the twice-weekly barge service, compared with last year's total of 4,386 containers. Barge traffic was off in 2011 because a major user temporarily scaled back its use of the service.
The barge service was the result of a larger effort to reduce truck traffic on Interstate 64, reduce carbon emissions and to better utilize the Port of Richmond, which lost its two last ocean carriers as a result of the recession.
"If you look at it in terms of roundtrip truck trips, thus far in 2012 we've taken nearly 12,500 trucks off the road and the emissions that go with that figure as well as a reduction in the wear and tear on the roads," said Heather W. Wood, the VPA's director of environmental affairs. "Next year we expect to remove more than 20,000 truck trips from I-64."
An increase in barge traffic and greater utilization of the Port of Richmond could serve as a catalyst for economic growth and development around that facility.
Major Richmond port customers include MeadWestvaco, Altria, Equistock and TFC Recycling. Besides container traffic, the port also handles dry bulk and break-bulk cargos.
"Given its location right on I-95 and the connection it has to The Port of Virginia, we see a lot of upside on multiple fronts for the Port of Richmond," Oliver said.