Port Authority sees lower shipping volumes in February

The Virginia Port Authority reported Wednesday the authority experienced a drop in shipments during February, mainly due to bad weather.

The port authority reported handling 178,105 shipments last month, a 0.8 percent decline from February 2014. Exports suffered the bulk of the decline, dropping 1.8 percent from 95,161 in February 2014 to 93,413 in February 2015. Imports experienced a slight uptick, from 84,363 last year to 84,692 this year.

Joe Harris, a spokesperson with the authority, said February is traditionally a slow month to begin with.

“January and February are traditionally slower months because the retail season is behind us and spring cargo hasn’t come in yet,” Harris said. “Those months are quieter, but they used to be no-man’s land, but that’s not the case anymore. They’re still busy, but nothing like October or November.”

The snow that walloped the Commonwealth caused the authority to close for four days last month. The temporary closures, combined with the slower productivity during the cold temperatures and icy conditions, resulted in the Inland Port’s volume declining by 5 percent and the barge containers going down 21 percent.

However, the year to date, when compared to 2014, showed a 6.7 percent increase. Truck volume also increased during February, up 4.4 percent over last year.

Harris said the overall decline during February means one thing: a strong March.

“We are expecting to rebound in March, there’s no doubt about that,” Harris said. “The cargo that was held up in February will be showing up in March.”

Harris said the recent deal struck between labor and management on the West Coast ports “did not have a lot of bearing” on the February drop.

“I’d say we did get some cargo because of the labor issues, but it didn’t just show up in the last couple of months, it showed up over the better part of a year as a lot of cargo and shipment owners decided they didn’t want to have all their eggs in one basket,” Harris said.

The authority also announced it was able to refinance its bonds at a 9.9 percent rate, saving the authority $14.7 million. The refinancing was a result of a $141.8 million sale of port facilities refunding bonds to investors, due to a upgrading of the authority’s bond rating by Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s late last month.

Harris said the savings means the authority can now reinvest that money into other projects and assets.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com