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Maritime

In March, Port Of Wilmington Sees A Record In Monthly Containers

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 23, 2021
A ship docks at the Port of Wilmington. (File photo)
N.C. Ports has experienced a record in the number of containers going through the Port of Wilmington in a single month.

Recent figures indicate a boost in port activity in March in total container volume, intermodal rail volume, as well as loaded refrigerated container volume, Brian Clark, executive director of N.C. Ports, said Friday.

“It was a really strong month across all sectors. There were a combination of factors that led to the growth,” Clark said. “We did have a surge of vessels that were impacted elsewhere that arrived during the month. And we are seeing growth across many different sectors of cargo, but particularly in the refrigerated containers ... both import and export.”

There were a total of 18,782 container moves through the Port of Wilmington in March, up from the previous record of 17,114 moves in March 2018, according to figures released in an N.C. Ports Authority board presentation on Thursday.

The growth in containers has been taking place over the past several months, Clark said, leading up to the record last month.

The port, in its refrigerated container cargo in March, saw a record of 1,686 moves and an increase from the previous record set back in April 2020 with 1,459 moves.

N.C. Ports completed its $14 million refrigerated container yard expansion last spring, growing the Port of Wilmington’s capacity to handle refrigerated cargo. The ability to handle more cargo on the refrigerated container side of the ports business has been an ongoing piece of the ports' plans.

Trade to the port has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen some recovery, Clark said.

“The north-south cargo, so the Latin American services we have that call the port, have definitely rebounded. They were impacted last year by COVID as well as hurricanes that shut down certain locations where we see cargo coming from,” Clark said. “So that north-south trade has been very strong. We've also seen the European trade grow significantly over the last several months.”

Clark said that growth is happening across all sectors, both on the import and export side, and is taking place among its current customer base through organic growth as well as some new customer opportunities that have come to the port.

That growth is also translating into an increase in the ports' intermodal rail service activity, Clark said. 

Activity with Queen City Express, an intermodal rail service operated by Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX is also picked up in March. The month saw 989 containers moved, an increase from the previous record of 784 containers moved in August 2020.

The Queen City Express carries cargo by rail between the Port of Wilmington and the Charlotte Inland Port in Charlotte. The rail service was established in the summer of 2017, bringing back an intermodal rail component to the port after more than 30 years.

There were more than 33,800 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) that went through the Port of Wilmington in March.

“As we look into the rest of the year’s forecast, we do have a very positive outlook. We're cautiously optimistic on the last quarter of the year that we will finish ahead of our budget and our plan for the year,” Clark said. “We do take it as a very positive sign.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the record number of container moves through the Port of Wilmington and updated with the total TEUs for the month of March.
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