The Port of Wilmington is seeing new growth, recovering business after the upheaval of global ocean carrier Hanjin Shipping Co. in mid-2016.
The port saw nearly 231,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit containers) in its 2017 fiscal year from July to June, down from about 284,700 in the 2016 fiscal year, according to numbers released by N.C. Ports.
Officials said those numbers, however, are expected to rise with additions made at the port this year after Hanjin – previously the world’s seventh-largest shipping company – filed for bankruptcy, prompting a dip in traffic at U.S. ports.
At the time, the Port of Wilmington was down to just three direct services, port officials said.
N.C. Ports has since had an active year in its container service additions beginning in May and now has a total of seven calling on the port: two trans-Pacific services, a Southeast Asia service, a trans-Atlantic service and three Latin America services.
Officials have said this year’s new activations
have opened the Port of Wilmington to the most global access through its container services in port history.
“N.C. Ports is growing, and it’s an exciting time for not only the local and regional economies but the state economy as well, as we press forward with our more than $200 million in infrastructure improvement projects,” N.C. Ports spokeswoman Bethany Welch said.
The infrastructure investments include the purchase of new cranes, a turning basin expansion project in 2016 and ongoing berth improvements.
The port, however, is now looking into expanding the basin again to accommodate even larger 14,000 TEU vessels now visiting the East Coast, said N.C. Ports COO Brian Clark, who joined N.C. Ports in May.
“For us to remain competitive we need to be able to handle those same size vessels in the future,” he said.
Along with the additional service lines, the port is positioning itself to be a more competitive cold chain gateway, officials said at the first N.C. Ports Cold Chain Summit this fall
In December, N.C. Ports joined both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the USDA’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program, and is currently the only South Atlantic port with both phases to better fulfill USDA quarantine requirements, Welch said. Port officials said this would open more doors for produce importers.
Another milestone this year was the addition of the Queen City Express
, an intermodal rail service running between the Port of Wilmington and Charlotte. The intermodal line run by CSX connected the port to such a service for the first time in 30 years.
N.C. Ports Executive Director Paul Cozza said it “provides premier rail service over competing ports for existing and future container customers.”