The Results: Success Beyond Normal Measures

Accurately measuring the results of a year turned upside-down by the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant challenge. Total cargo volume and revenue are our usual primary metrics, but to get a true picture of FY20, it is important to take into account our accomplishments outside of the numbers.

Assessing the results of FY20 made us look more closely at the work we did prior to, and during the pandemic. The effort also made us look outside of our normal metrics. What we came away with was a unique picture of success in a year of obstacles.
During the first six months of our fiscal year (July 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2019), our cargo volumes were flat at 1.48 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) when compared with the same period in FY19. The negative effects of the U.S.-China trade war were evident in our volumes, but trade talks yielded some resolution on agriculture exports. Thus, we entered January believing that once we got past the normal slowdown in trade that accompanies the Chinese New Year, our volumes would pick-up.

The rebound never came. Instead, trade slowed as the virus spread and began taking its toll on shipping and the global economy. Our trade in the last half of FY20 fell off significantly: overall TEU volumes were down more than 12 percent, or 180,000 units. Our average monthly TEU volume In FY20, Jan. – June, was 212,000 units, vs 242,000 units for the same period in FY19. During the height of the pandemic there were 57 regularly-scheduled vessel calls to Virginia that never happened because the ship did not have the necessary volume to sail.

FY20 vs. FY19 Cargo Volume

Total TEUs



Loaded Export TEUs



Loaded Import TEUs



Total Containers



Virginia Inland Port Containers



Total Breakbulk Tonnage



Total Rail Containers



Total Truck Containers



Total Barge Containers


+ 8.8%

Richmond Barge Containers



Though volumes suffered, there were areas of business that boomed. The amount of cargo moving by barge to Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) and the overall amount of cargo we move by barge grew. In FY20, container volume at RMT was up 22.5 percent, an increase of more than 7,500 units. Total barge volume (total units moved to RMT and Port of Baltimore by barge) was up almost 9 percent, or nearly 4,800 units.

The success of RMT and its barge service is driving development around the terminal. Companies like Amazon, Bissell, and Brother International have built facilities nearby to capitalize on the efficiency of the barge and the terminal’s strategic location on I-95. The terminal’s expanding capabilities are driving speculative development in the area of RMT and this will continue to fuel volume growth there.

Private investment inside the terminals grew. In January, Ørsted, a Europe-based renewable energy company, leased a portion of PMT. That lease could result in upgrades to the site to prepare it for activities such as pre-assembly, staging, and loading of wind turbines for offshore power generation and drive the development of a new industry throughout the Commonwealth. Similarly, two international grain shippers, Scoular and Fornazor, invested in grain shipping operations inside RMT and NIT, respectively.

We made significant progress on the capacity expansion at NIT, which will be complete this fall, and are analyzing the benefits of expanding the terminal’s Central Rail Yard. The project to widen and deepen our commercial shipping channels (to 55 feet) is running ahead of schedule. And, we are in the final stages of planning to expand the rail operation at Virginia Inland Port.
Amazon Robotics Fulfillment Center in Suffolk, Virginia.
Though volume was light, we continued our focus on efficiency and got results. The investments we made at VIG and NIT on capacity and modern cargo conveyance systems are showing their value. Cargo ready for movement by rail was processed, on average, in 40 hours of less, which is well below the industry standard. Likewise, truck drivers spent less time on terminal, about 40 minutes, on average, which is about 20 minutes below the industry standard. And all of this was done safely, with the number of workdays lost to injury at an all-time low and well-below the federal government standard.
Operating Revenues
Operating Income
Change in Net Position
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