The Port of Virginia has found business for its idle Portsmouth Marine Terminal for the first time since it was closed as a container facility in the winter of 2011. A portion of the terminal will serve for six months, and possibly longer, as a staging area for automobiles that will be exported to China.
The Virginia Port Authority has been trying since September 2010 to lease all or part of the Portsmouth terminal on the Elizabeth River for breakbulk, bulk, roll-on/roll-off or project cargo operations. Port officials consolidated container operations in 2011 at the modern APM Terminals facility it now runs a couple miles upriver to improve efficiency.
The Portsmouth terminal is a drain on the port's operating budget without a tenant.
“This is a good first step of providing a ‘proof of concept’ to bring business back to PMT. There is a lot of opportunity at PMT for the right users and this is one," new VPA Executive Director John Reinhart said in a statement.
On March 30, a Norfolk Southern automotive train arrived at the rail carrier’s Carolina Yard in Portsmouth, carrying 700 Chrysler SUVs manufactured near Toledo, Ohio. The vehicles were driven or transported from the rail yard to PMT by car carrier and vehicle convoy.
Pasha Automotive Group signed a six-month agreement with Virginia International Terminals, the port's operating arm, to handle auto stevedoring. Reinhart said a longer-term agreement is possible if all goes well.
The cars will be transported by Siem Car Carriers.
Two-to-three additional vehicle trains are anticipated. Around April 25, a Siem vessel is scheduled to call PMT and an estimated 2,500 vehicles will be loaded by unionized longshoremen.
“Our goal is to provide a very high level of service and give Pasha Automotive reason to consider a long-term agreement,” Reinhart said.
Terms of the agreement are confidential.