Container traffic at the Port of Wilmington continues to grow ’ and top-notch teamwork, high-quality customer service and increasing productivity on the container terminal play a key role.

In May, the terminal handled almost 13,000 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs - the standard unit for measuring container traffic), an increase of nearly 60% over almost 8,000 last year. Along with increasing volumes, port productivity is reaching new levels, as noted by one of the Port’s key partners after a June port call by Yang Ming Line’s YM Hamburg.

Rob Frazier, Wilmington operations vice president for SSA Cooper, stevedore for the vessel, commended one of the three crane gangs working the ship for what he called their “staggering” performance.

“Johnny Thompson (crane operator) and Todd Melvin (toplift operator) combined for a staggering 139 moves in two and a half hours, including three hold lids, for an average of 55.6 containers per hour ’ simply outstanding work,” he said, but added that this was only a highlight in an all-around excellent performance. “Although I’m singling out these two individuals, everyone performed well.”

The vessel call involved 1,387 moves, completed by three cranes in 12 hours, at an average productivity of 39 moves per hour. For comparison, a recent report by the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport included this assessment: “One port consultant stated that 40 crane moves per hour are possible at some North American ports compared with about 20 currently at Felixstowe (U.K.) and 30 at Rotterdam and Antwerp.” Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and Antwerp, in Belgium, are among the top container terminals in the world.

“Achieving this outstanding performance, as Rob Frazier said, involves far more than the two people named in his well-deserved compliments,” said Jeff Miles, Chief Operations Officer of the NC State Ports Authority. “This kind of productivity is no accident ’ it involves a diverse team of Port terminal workers, business partners, and our International Longshoremen’s Association labor force as well.”

Among the work teams Mr. Miles gives credit to, for example, are those responsible for keeping the cranes in top operating condition.

“We can’t achieve this kind of performance unless we have zero down time on the cranes,” he said. “That happens only because we have the best people doing the best work to maintain and prevent problems with the cranes.”

Walter Taylor, crane operations manager at Wilmington, echoed both Mr. Miles and Mr. Frazier in spreading the praise around.

“My people are dedicated and do whatever it needs to get the job done,” he said. “But the key to our success is communication among everyone involved, and all of them knowing their jobs as well. The ILA checkers, the stevedores, the ship’s crew even, all have to be working together.”

Glenn Carlson, Managing Director of Business Development for the Ports Authority, said this is just one piece of a very positive picture for the Authority.

“Our container volumes keep growing, with a new service to northern China and transshipment services opening up possibilities in Europe and South and Central America,” he said. “We have the container capacity right now to bring in significantly more business, and we’re adding more capacity to continue growing with the market.”

The Port’s $130-million expansion program, to meet anticipated demands for additional capacity, includes four new 100-ft gauge container cranes and seven rubber-tire gantry cranes to double throughput capacity over the next five years.