Despite supply chain problems during the pandemic that have affected shipping, and a big vessel tie-up in the Suez Canal last March, the Port of Wilmington’s 2021 fiscal year was a strong one. The fiscal year for NC Ports ends June 30 of each year.
Key indicators for the Port of Wilmington were up over the previous fiscal year, according to spokeswoman Amy Passaretti.
“Container volume has increased 2% for FY21 over FY20,” she said. “Refrigerated container volume is up 9% in FY21 from FY20 – and has increased 300% since 2015. We handled 2 million tons of cargo in FY21.”
The Port of Wilmington set a new record for total container volume handled in a single year.
“The TEU volume for FY21 was 324,145,” Passaretti said, explaining that “TEU” stands for Twenty Equivalent Units. This is the metric used to measure capacity on container vessels.
Together, the Port of Wilmington and the Port of Morehead City in FY21 handled just over 3.2 million tons of general cargo, also known as break-bulk cargo. The term refers to goods that are shipped in individually counted units rather than in containers.
In late August, NC Ports hired Dan Blackburn (below
) as its director of information technology. Blackburn
has more than 18 years of experience in the maritime industry, managing IT projects and IT operations for Netherlands-based APM Terminals as well as Yusen Terminals and Fenix Marine Services in the Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, area.
Prior to being hired to fill the position, Blackburn consulted with the NC Ports over the past several months to help the organization transition to its updated terminal operating system, gate operating system and customer access portal, Passaretti said.
In another item of port news, on Aug. 26, the N.C. Ports Authority board approved a 30-year lease agreement with Cold Summit Development, which plans to develop nearly 460,000 square feet of cold storage space in two buildings on property owned by the port off Raleigh Street in Wilmington.
Port officials also look forward to an expansion of another kind. The proposed Wilmington Harbor Navigation Improvement Project would further dredge the Cape Fear River near the port.
The project would deepen the harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet, allowing it to accommodate larger deep-draft container vessels and making it easier for carriers to use the Port of Wilmington as a port of call for vessels carrying cargo between the U.S. East Coast and Asia, port officials have stated.
“A more efficient channel would modernize the Port, attract more import and export business, help mitigate East Coast congestion, and help North Carolina Ports become an even stronger player in this competitive landscape, thereby supporting the economies of Wilmington, New Hanover County, eastern North Carolina and the entire state,” the NC Ports website states.
A bill before Congress now would appropriate $500,000 for a required National Environmental Policy Act studies on the environmental impacts of the project. When he visited the Port of Wilmington on Aug. 20, U.S. Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) said he supports the project and looks forward to an appropriation that would fund the study.