NORFOLK, VA – A grant from the federal government is helping The Port of Virginia diversify, grow and expedite the cargo moving across Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) and on the thrice weekly Richmond Express service.
This week the port put into service a portable, 40-plug central power unit that can be mounted on the Richmond Express barge and a specialized, heavy-lift forklift that will be used in the cargo operation at RMT. Both pieces of equipment were purchased using $446,747 in grant money from the federal government’s Marine Highway Projects grant program. The power unit costs $222,700 and the forklift is $373,234. The port is contributing $119,186 in matching funds.
“We have several current and potential users of RMT that are in the food and beverage, refrigerated and discount grocery industry that are expressing interest in using the barge to move reefer (refrigerated) cargo,” said John. F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “The power unit enables us to provide a more comprehensive level of barge service to current and potential customers and continue to serve as a catalyst for commerce in the Richmond metro area and beyond.”
Reinhart said the expanded refrigerated cargo capability on the barge is part of the port’s larger strategic growth plan. This asset combined with the port’s participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program will help to make the port a destination for cold cargo, Reinhart said. Virginia is the newest member of the program that is designed to import fresh fruit in refrigerated containers to U.S. East Coast ports from South America.
The new forklift, with is 52,000-lb. lift capacity, is part of the ongoing investment at RMT and opens up the possibility for new heavy, or overweight cargo, business.
“An advantage to using RMT is that we can now provide services – using the forklift — such as unloading and loading of containers to the maximum allowable weight,” Reinhart said. “Those heavy containers are taken off of I-64 and safely moved west on the barge and when they reach Richmond, we now have the equipment to handle the heavy lift.
“Both of these investments will create more opportunities to diversify and grow our cargo mix, drive business on the barge and across RMT. We are grateful for the federal government’s recognition of the effectiveness of the barge service and the growing importance of RMT in America’s Marine Highway Program.”
Year-to-date cargo volumes moving across RMT continue to grow. Through November, the terminal has processed 21,491 containers, which is growth of nearly 25 percent when compared with the same period in 2016.
The Marine Highway Projects program is administered by the U.S. Maritime Administration and focuses on expanding existing service on a designated Marine Highway Route that provides new modal choices to shippers of cargo, reduces transportation costs, provides public benefits including reduced air emissions, reduced road maintenance costs and improved safety and resiliency.