The renewal of lumber business to China is expected to boost cargo volumes at the Port of Virginia, which is already experiencing a boom in container growth this year.
The Chinese government two years ago banned all hardwood shipments via the ports of Virginia and Charleston, S.C., because of concerns about invasive pests. Officials found nematodes in pine log shipments that they identified as coming from Virginia and South Carolina, and banned further shipments from both states. The Virginia Forestry Association said at the time the pests actually came from from states other than Virginia and South Carolina.
After months of negotiations led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, extensive research and a year-long pilot program that allowed for the export of hard and softwoods, China has agreed to accept hardwood exports from the two states. The pilot included enhanced pest treatment and testing protocols.
In 2011, the value of Virginia’s log exports was about $57 million.
The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is issuing phytosanitary certificates for hardwood exports, effective Sept. 15. APHIS recommends hardwood products be fumigated for 24 hours prior to export.
The good news about hardwood exports comes on the heels of an all-time, single-month high for container volume at the Port of Virginia. The ports terminals in Portsmouth and Norfolk handled 205,137 TEUs in July, a 13.7 percent increase from the 180,384 shipping boxes moved through the port in July 2012.
It is the first time the port has ever topped 200,000 TEUs in a single month, surpassing the previous record of 199,448 TEUs set in October 2007, before the global recession.
Year-to-date volumes at the Port of Virginia are up 7.2 percent to 1.25 million TEUs compared to the first seven months of 2012.
Virginia’s export throughput actually outpaced imports. Import TEUs totaled 98,774 and exports were 106,363 TEUs in July, increases of 14.9 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. For the calendar year, imports are up 8.9 percent and exports are up 5.7 percent.
The port also handled 37,985 intermodal containers, the second-best month for rail movements in the history of the port. The intermodal high point was set in May.
Breakbulk business reached 37,584 short tons in July, the best month since last November, according to the Virginia Port Authority. - Eric Kulisch