The Virginia Port Authority’s rail traffic to and from its markets in the Midwest grew to more than 430,000 teus in fiscal 2007 and continues the trend of increasing rail volume at the port.

‘More and more our customers are finding that our rail connections to and from these primary [Midwest] markets are among the best on the East Coast, in terms of transit time and overall efficiency,’ said Thomas Capozzi, the port’s senior director of marketing. ‘Also, we are seeing extremely heavy export volume coming out of the industrialized Midwest as American-made products are becoming more competitive due to the weak dollar.’

In fiscal ‘07 the port’s Midwest rail volume was 433,685 teus, compared with 414,508 teus in 2006, an increase of 4.6%. Moreover, June was the port’s busiest month on record for Midwest rail volume: 44,006 teus here handled. And during that month, the week of 22-28 was a record-setter for weekly volume: 11,097 teus were moved.

In calendar 2004, 22% of the port’s cargo was moved by rail; in 2005 the number was 24%; in 2006 it was 27%; and the January-to-June average for this year is 29%.

‘I cannot foresee our rail volume trending down,’ said Jerry A. Bridges, the port’s executive director. ‘A series of external factors combined with the Heartland Corridor coming on line in the next two years, we believe, will really begin to drive some heavy rail volumes. Overnight service via the Heartland Corridor to some of our primary markets is going to draw even more attention to this port.’

At the Virginia Inland Port, the VPA-owned intermodal facility in Front Royal, VA, 54,646 teus were handled in the first half of the calendar year, a decline of 8,748 teus, or 13.8% compared with the same period last year. The decline, though, can be attributed to the fact that VIP handled fewer empty containers. In the first six months of this year import loads grew eight percent, export loads were up five percent and empties dropped 14%.

‘While our overall volume is down, our movement of loaded containers is growing at a healthy pace,’ Capozzi said. ‘This is significant because it means the VIP is establishing itself as a true intermodal routing point for both imports and exports. The steamship lines are doing a much better job of matching loads instead of repositioning empties prior to, or following the loaded move.’