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Letter to the Editor

By MarEx 2011-04-09 10:04:12

Dear Mr. Munoz,:

It was with interest that I read Challenges for America's East Coast Shipping, Ports and Trade published in the March 30 online edition of The Maritime Executive. By the time I was finished with the column, I was shocked by its inaccuracy.

This is the statement that most surprised me: “Although the port of Savannah announced a $324m project of deepening its channel and basin depth, there is no other East Coast port capable of serving these large vessels…”

To set the record absolutely straight: The Port of Virginia has 50-foot-deep channels and they have been 50 feet deep since spring 2006. Moreover, it is no secret that we have the federal authorization to dredge to 55 feet if necessary; no other US East Coast port has that advantage. Finally and for emphasis, I add that no other US East Coast port can dredge as economically as Virginia can when the need arises.

Contrary to the author’s statement, Virginia is the only US East Coast port that can currently serve the vessel class that is expected to use the widened Panama Canal. If those vessels were to begin showing up tomorrow, we are ready: 50-foot channels, no overhead obstructions, 18-miles from the open-ocean, double-stack rail into critical population and manufacturing centers and modern, highly-automated marine terminals.

In fact, we are hearing talk of 9,200-TEU capacity vessels being deployed in some Suez-US East Coast rotations that would call Virginia. Fully-loaded, a vessel that size can only come to one port: Virginia.

The article’s early inaccuracy simply undoes the author’s later supposition: “This may mean that in the future much of the US East Coast-Far East trade will have to be transshipped via Savannah or some foreign transshipment port in the Bahamas or Panama unless Savannah increases its throughput capacity appreciably.”

No. Until other US East Coast ports complete their dredging projects, transshipment from Virginia up and down the coast I think is a real possibility. We believe there is a “big-ship model” that offers the economies of scale of bringing these large ships to Virginia and discharging all or most of their cargo.

Finally, it should also be stated that The Port Virginia, because of its foresight, is not in Washington, DC, seeking federal money to dredge. We’ve done that work and we’re ready today.

Sincerely,

Jerry A. Bridges, executive director
Virginia Port Authority