Port of Virginia container volumes plummet 20%

Officials blamed the weak trade statistics for the first half of the year on the worldwide economic slowdown. The good news, however, is that container trade at the port – currently part of a bidding contest between CenterPoint, Carlyle and Goldman Sachs – is now showing increases for the first time in a year.

Cargo volumes at the Port of Virginia continued to plummet due to weak economic activity, as the port reported a 20 percent drop in its container trade through the first six months of the year. At the same time, though, more recent data shows cause for optimism.

From January to July, the port said it handled 974,223 twenty-foot equivalents (TEUs), a standard of measure equivalent to the volume of a twenty-foot long shipping container. This is 19.4 percent less than the 1,208,948 TEUs the port handled over the same period last year.

The decrease – which port officials attributed to the global economic slowdown – came as the port marked its 10th consecutive month in which container volumes showed a year-over-year decrease. In July 2009, the port handled 17.8 percent fewer TEUs than in July 2008.

However, recent months have shown encouraging signs of an uptick in activity. In July, the port handled 81,041 TEUs, versus 79,844 in June, marking the first month-to-month increase in TEU volumes since July 2008.

The deepwater East Coast US port is currently at the centre of a high-profile bidding contest between three US investors which have submitted business proposals to outsource or privatise its operations.
The three proposals have come from Chicago-based industrial real estate developer CenterPoint Properties, private equity firm The Carlyle Group and a partnership between Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners-backed stevedore Carrix and Goldman Sachs’ investment banking arm.

CenterPoint’s and Carlyle’s preliminary proposals envision a long-term lease of 60 and 60-plus years, respectively, while Carrix and Goldman proposed a 30-year agreement for the port to outsource a part of its operations to Carrix.