Portsmouth Marine Terminal photo courtesy of Port of Virginia

Bay Ports Reduce Operations as Terminal Traffic Drops

The Port of Virgina has just closed the Portsmouth Marine Terminal’s container operations as the Chesapeake Bay’s international ports adjust operations to get the job done.

In an operational alert, the Port of Virginia announced that it would be consolidating terminals and reducing gate hours as part of its response to the effects of the COVID19. 

“As an industry, we are faced with a record number of blank sailings [scheduled ships that never show], and idled containerships, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement reads. “We have witnessed a marked decline in current and forecasted volumes from our shippers and ocean carriers.”

In addition to adjusted gate hours at Norfolk International Terminals, Virginia International Gateway, and several other sites, the port announced that the Portsmouth Marine Terminal (PMT) will be closed to container operations beginning on May 4. Vessels that would normally use PMT will be redirected to the other terminals. 

Port of Virginia spokesperson Joe Harris tells Bay Bulletin that because PMT is relatively small and fields a fractional amount of the port’s ship volume, “as we looked to save money, it was a logical move to fold those ship calls and the volume at PMT into those other facilities, and the people as well.” 

Although there’s been a definite decrease in vessel traffic, the Port of Virginia is still open for business, says Harris.

“We are estimating that through August we’ll see at least 40-plus blank sailings. We’re seeing the vessels that are still coming, many have lighter loads than normal. It’s having an effect on trade, as we forecast. All that said, the Port of Virginia is still working. These dedicated people are showing up every day. There’s still a significant amount of trade moving across Virginia, just not as much as in the past.”

The Port of Baltimore, which is also experiencing lower international shipping volume, issued a statement on its homepage:

“Port of Baltimore remains open for business. Transportation and the movement of cargo remain essential.”

The statement also announces that Ports America Chesapeake, which operates Seagirt Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore, has adjusted gate hours at Seagirt. The port’s Dundalk, North Locust Point, South Locust Point, Fairfield, and Masonville terminals are currently operating under regular hours.
Laura Adams Boycourt