VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — Business is booming at the Port of Virginia.
In October, the most recent month for which data is available, the port set a new record, handling more than 270,000 "T.E.U.'s", or 20-foot equivalent units, a 1.9 percent increase, or more than 5,000 units above the port's previous record.
All that while the port is undergoing a $695 million expansion at its two largest terminals.
"I think we're going to continue to see the continuation of larger ships," said Port CEO and Executive Director John Reinhart. "And with our dredging plan and with our infrastructure. I believe Virginia is well positioned to be a key port for decades to come."
The administrator of the United States Maritime Administration, Mark 'Buz" Buzby is impressed.
"I've got to tell you, I like what I see," he said. "It's a port on the move."
The retired Navy rear admiral told the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce the sky is the limit for the port, which already provides 530,00 jobs and more than $88 billion in economic impact to the state.
"Ninety percent of everything comes and goes by water in this country," he said. "And, ladies and gentlemen, a good chunk of that comes through Thimble Shoals Channel right out here."
The port already has in place a 50-year master plan, out to the year 2065, which projects an additional $3.14 billion in new investments.
Chamber President and CEO Bryan Stephens said it will be money well spent.
"Well, considering the importance of the maritime industry to our economy here in Hampton Roads, it's huge," he said. "It's obviously one of the three pillars of our economy. One in every nine jobs in the entire commonwealth is either directly or indirectly tied to the port of Virginia."
Stephens said the state needs to continue to invest in the port.
"We hear a lot about diversifying the economy," he said. "But, at the same time, we need to make sure we support the port, the maritime industry here in Hampton Roads."
Overall, the Port of Virginia saw a 17 percent increase in import volumes from September to October.
According to a mission statement on the port's website: "The Port of Virginia will achieve our shared vision of operational excellence, fiscal responsibility, and sustainable growth. Above all, we will remain responsible members of the communities we serve, a valuable resource to our customers, an excellent place to work, and an economic engine for the region."
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