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Maritime

Port Moves Ahead With Nearly $22.6M Reefer Yard Expansion 

By Johanna F. Still, posted Apr 15, 2022
A soon-to-be expanded refrigerated container yard at the Port of Wilmington will further boost the port's capacity to better support agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors. (Photo courtesy of N.C. State Ports Authority)

The Port of Wilmington will soon feature even more room equipped to temporarily store refrigerated containers. 

Last month, the N.C. State Port Authority Board of Directors voted to authorize phase two of its reefer yard expansion, a nearly $22.6 million project. 

The first $14 million phase, which wrapped in May 2020, introduced 540 new plugs to the port, bringing its total to 775. These plugs are used to allow refrigerated containers arriving from or preparing to exit ocean-bound ships to remain powered and protect temperature-sensitive goods, like produce, meats and pharmaceutical products. 

Another 704 new plugs are planned through the just-authorized second phase, which will bring the port’s total refrigerated plug stock to 1,479. Ports executive director Brian Clark said the first phase of the project was well-timed at the ports’ fifth annual cold chain summit Tuesday. 

“They were about full, I would say, about a week or two after [completion] because of the abundant export market in this region,” Clark said. “That’s why phase two was approved as quickly as it was.” 

Clark added that port officials are physically laying the groundwork for phase three. Phase two involves the planned installation of four-high reefer racks (where four containers get stacked) and outlets, whereas phase one created a yard with containers stacked three units high. 

Conduit pathways will be laid underground, according to the plans. Phase three will introduce 576 new plugs.

Investments in cold infrastructure are part of the ports’ multi-year container terminal expansion plan. The emphasis on this sector has been driven by a push to ensure the Port of Wilmington is a central hub for perishable products – a strong export market for the state’s agricultural stakeholders. Before these investments, North Carolina-produced perishables were more commonly passed through other surrounding but out-of-state ports.

The phase two reefer yard expansion is estimated to be complete by spring 2023, according to a ports spokesperson. 

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