The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) announced that its operating company, Virginia International Terminals Inc. (VIT), signed a long-term contract with Mediterranean Shipping Co., the world’s second largest ship line.

The 10-year contract was finalized Feb. 24 and goes into effect March 3. It guarantees that MSC will have an annual throughput of 65,000 containers and relocates the service from Newport News Marine Terminals to Norfolk International Terminals’ south berth; the value of the contract is being kept confident. ‘The people at MSC are confident that they’ll be moving about 100,000 boxes a year through our port,’ Dorto said.

Dorto said that during the contract negotiations MSC Director Pasquale Formisano said the port’s deep draft [in its shipping channels], the new facilities at NIT south and the fact that Virginia is the largest tobacco port in the country were behind the company’s decision to commit to the 10-year deal. ‘MSC is also a heavy rail user and our on-terminal rail operations were an asset as we began negotiating,’ Dorto said.

MSC’s vessels have been calling at the VPA’s terminals since 1986 and the company now has an annual guarantee of 20,000 containers.

‘This is a valued customer and we’re glad to be continuing this strong relationship,’ said J. Robert Bray, the VPA’s executive director. ‘The assets that we have been talking about ’ deep water, modern facilities, rail, etc. ’ were all important selling points during the negotiations. Our efforts are truly beginning to bear fruit.’

Dorto estimates that 65 percent of the port’s business is now secured with 10-year contracts: the port already as such agreements Grand Alliance, CKY, China Shipping and Turkon. ‘It’s smart business to plan that far in advance. This enables us to invest in our facilities over the long term to meet growth needs.’

Vito Piraino, local vice president of MSC in Norfolk, said the ship line is looking forward to using the assets that NIT south offers.

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