Exactly one year after CMA CGM cut the ribbon on its new North American headquarters in Norfolk, the French steamship line finalized a 10-year contract with Virginia International Terminals Inc. (VIT), which is the Virginia Port Authority’s operating company.

The announcement of the agreement was made May 23 by Tom Capozzi, the VPA’s senior director of marketing at the VPA Board of Commissioners meeting.

The 10-year contract, valued at more than $125 million, guarantees that CMA CGM will have an annual throughput at the VPA terminals of at least 55,000 containers. Joe Dorto, CEO and general manager at VIT, said he expects CMA CGM to eventually exceed its minimum throughput requirement.

‘In these long-term contracts that we’ve been working on it is generally understood that the carriers will exceed their contracted throughput,’ Dorto said. ‘As I’ve said all along, these companies are guaranteeing their ability to grow at this port.

‘The people at CMA CGM know that as their cargo volumes increase, they will not have any capacity issues in Virginia ’ they’ve got it in writing.’

On an annual basis, CMA CGM has had a throughput of between 15,000 and 30,000 containers. The line began calling in Virginia in 2000. The vessels call at Norfolk International Terminals and at Portsmouth Marine Terminal. CMA CGM is the world’s third largest steamship lines; the company has its world headquarters in Marseilles, France.

‘This is a very fast growing steamship line. Since 2000, CMA CGM’s business here has increased 298%,’ Capozzi said. ‘We know this company has very aggressive growth plans, in terms of adding new services, and I think Virginia will figure prominently in those plans. We’re very pleased to have this business secured for the next decade.’

Dorto estimates that 70% of the port’s business is now secured with 10-year contracts. The port already has 11 such agreements in place. The Grand Alliance, CKY, China Shipping, Turkon, MSC and ACL have all agreed to 10-year contracts.

‘I think before the end of the year we will sign one or two more of these long-term contracts,’ Dorto said.

In 2005, The Port of Virginia had its most successful year on record, having handled 1.98 million teus.