The Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners on Thursday voted to hire shipping executive John F. Reinhart as chief executive officer of the Port of Virginia. Two weeks ago, Reinhart announced his retirement at the end of January as president and CEO of Maersk Line, Ltd., (MLL) the U.S.-flag subsidiary of Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk Group. He will start work at the VPA in February.
Maersk is the largest container shipping line in the world.
Reinhart has worked for the Maersk organization for almost 23 years. He spent the past 14 years at Norfolk, Va.-based MLL, which provides ocean transportation to the U.S. Navy and other U.S. government agencies, as well as shipment management and maritime technical services to government and commercial customers.
MLL has 34 vessels in its fleet and is the largest employer of American mariners.
Reinhart will take over from Rodney Oliver, the chief financial officer who has spent the past 13 months as interim executive director during a period of tumult. While Oliver was at the helm, the VPA considered a privatization proposal from APM Terminals, another Maersk subsidiary that owns a private terminal adjacent to port property, before moving ahead instead with a comprehensive organizational restructuring designed to improve cargo throughput and service, while reducing costs.
The Port of Virginia is the third-largest container port on the East Coast and has been the fastest growing one during the past 18 months.
The Port of Virginia owns four facilities — the 600-acre Norfolk International Terminal for containers; Portsmouth International Terminal, which has been converted to support breakbulk and bulk cargoes; Newport News Marine Terminal; and the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal. It also leases the APM Terminal and the Port of Richmond. It operates the facilities through a limited liability corporation known as Virginia International Terminals. Reinhart will oversee about 100 port authority staff members and have oversight of the 300 VIT employees.
Reinhart is highly regarded within the Norfolk shipping community. Although APM Terminals has had a sometimes contentious relationship with the VPA related to its decision to site a private terminal in competition with the port and then losing its bid to take over the entire port operations, MLL did not weigh in on the public debate over the potential outsourcing of port operations to APMT.
Reinhart's relationship with Maersk in Copenhagen could help the Port of Virginia attract more services from Maersk, its subsidiaries and alliance partners.
"John's vast experience in the maritime industry, and his longstanding involvement in the Hampton Roads community, make him ideally suited to lead the Virginia Port Authority," Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement. "The reforms implemented by our administration and the board of commissioners are beginning to pay dividends, as the port continues to see record growth. However, much work remains to be done to ensure that the Port of Virginia is the most cost-effective and efficient port on the East Coast, so that we can utilize its natural advantages to grow cargo volumes and create more jobs."
Reinhart joined Maersk in 1991 as a human resources officer before leaving to serve as general manager of maintenance and repair, then general manager of operations and eventually president of Universal Marine Services. He returned to Maersk in 1996 as regional director and moved up to senior vice president responsible for sales, marketing and customer service.
This is not the first time a carrier executive has taken the helm of a port authority. South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome previously was president of Hapag-Lloyd (America), Inc., and many carrier executives have held top management jobs at port authorities. John Wolfe, the director of the Port of Tacoma, spent 10 years at APM Terminals in Tacoma before heading the Port of Olympia, and then moving to Tacoma as deputy port director.