Fifth consecutive year of growth predicted

The North Carolina State Ports Authority wrapped up fiscal year 2006 on June 30 with record annual revenues and its largest profit in 15 years, and plans to repeat the performance in the new fiscal year just begun.

Double-digit growth in container business and bulk cargo at the Port of Wilmington, and in breakbulk cargo at the Port of Morehead City, combined for the Authority’s fourth consecutive year of growth. Breakbulk cargo refers to commodities like rubber, lumber, steel and woodpulp, shipped in units such as bundles, pallets or bins. Bulk cargo is products which flow, like fertilizer or salt.

‘These remarkable increases are clearly reflected in economic benefits to the citizens of North Carolina,’ said Carl J. Stewart Jr., chairman of the Ports Authority’s Board of Directors. ‘From Murphy to Manteo, nearly 85,000 jobs and $300 million in state and local tax revenues each year are supported by cargo-handling activities at the state’ ports in Morehead City and Wilmington.’

Leading the growth was a 24% increase in container moves at the Port of Wilmington. Wilmington’s general cargo (bulk and breakbulk) tonnage at Wilmington increased nearly 13% as well.

The Port of Morehead City saw a record year in natural rubber imports, leading the Port’s 19% increase in breakbulk cargo tonnage over fiscal 2005. Together, both ports handled 4.8 million tons of general cargo. With container tonnage included, the Authority’s total volume for fiscal 2006 was 5.8 million tons, up from 5.4 million tons in fiscal year 2005.

Much of the growth at both ports comes from new business ’ a new container shipping line at Wilmington ’ and two new commodities ’ aggregate and lumber ’ at Morehead City.

At both Wilmington and Morehead City, growth in the nation’s construction and home improvement industries brought growth in business. Import forest products showed significant growth at 21 percent, or 823,388 tons, at the two ports. The Port of Wilmington experienced tremendous growth in import cement at 67%, or 359,363 tons.

Imports of natural rubber set new records at the Port of Morehead City, up 22% at 251,875 tons. Tire manufacturers in North Carolina and throughout the eastern US use rubber handled through Morehead City, the nation’s second-busiest rubber port. Scrap steel for Nucor Steel recycling mill in Hertford County increased 27%, to 359,124 tons.

Exports of frozen poultry and meat products from Wilmington reached a five-year high at 75,884 tons. The leading export commodities at Wilmington, woodpulp at 539,484 tons, and Morehead City, phosphate at 1.04 million tons, both posted a seven percent decline from fiscal 2005.

Cargo growth pushed annual revenues to $46.9 million, a 32% increase over the previous year. Coupled with a five percent decrease in expenses, the Ports Authority posted an $11.7 million profit ’ its largest in 15 years.

‘Expansion plans to accommodate our growing business are well under way at

Wilmington and Morehead City,’ said Tom Eagar, Ports Authority CEO.

‘Because the Authority’s operations are funded by the revenues we generate, this additional revenue allows us to maximize the State’s $7.5 million investment in our ports this year to fund the expansion program.’

The Ports Authority’s $130 million expansion project at the Port of Wilmington container terminal includes four new container cranes and supporting berth improvements. A new 177,000-square-foot warehouse is being built at the Port of Morehead City. Also at Morehead City, the first phase of design is almost complete for a new port terminal on Radio Island, across the Newport River from the existing facility.

‘Our future is bright,’ Mr. Eagar said. ‘As we begin fiscal 2007, we project a 14% improvement over the great performance for the year just completed. More cargo handled through North Carolina’s Ports simply means greater prosperity for North Carolina’s citizens as the businesses and industries providing this cargo generate more jobs, personal