“What has been achieved by leveraging the barge is a real accomplishment,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA). “Because of the success that we’re having, we are increasing the number of sailings per week. In turn, we’re accelerating our investment in the terminal, which leads to economic investment and job creation in the immediate area.
“This operation has set the standard for how to develop a sustainable barge service. Richmond is maturing into an important inland transit point for cargo and has become integral to our operation,” Reinhart said.
In 2008, despite its strategic location on I-95 and proximity to interstates 64 and 81, the Port of Richmond was struggling. Though it was servicing a small number of truck moves and leasing some space on terminal for storage, it hadn’t seen any activity on its wharf in nearly two years, according to VPA, which said the Great Recession forced the port’s last remaining ocean carrier customers to cancel their service to Richmond.
In January 2008, a barge carrying 14 containers and chassis left the Norfolk Harbor bound for Richmond.
“The Richmond Marine Terminal and its success are representative of the kind of collaborative ingenuity necessary to expand the use of marine highways nationwide,” said Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby. “The expansion of Richmond’s port and its barge service continue to encourage shippers to make waterborne transport a routine option in a very competitive industry.”
Following the startup of the barge service, the VPA entered into a short-term lease with the City of Richmond to manage the port. In February 2016, the VPA renewed that lease, agreeing to a 40-year term that allowed for management, operation and marketing of the terminal.
As a result of that agreement, the VPA rebranded the terminal, changing the name to Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) and worked with the RRTPO to acquire a $4.2 million mobile harbor crane.
• This year nearly 30,000 containers will move between RMT and the Norfolk Harbor on the barge, making 2018 the busiest in history for the Richmond Express barge service.
• In the 10 years the port has operated and managed RMT, more than 130,000 containers have been processed at the terminal.
• The compound annual growth rate from 2008 to 2018 is 71.3 percent.
• Fourteen ocean carriers offer bills of lading with RMT as the final destination or point of origin for cargo.
• A second barge, better configured for refrigerated containers, was purchased and placed into service in late 2016.
• A third barge has been purchased and will provide the capacity to increase the number of weekly sailings.
• In 2012, the VPA received a federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act grant to repower the tug that moves the barge with a low-emissions engine.
• A power unit that can supply electricity to as many as 40 refrigerated units was added to the barge in 2017.
• A European-based grocer that is making inroads along the U.S. East Coast chose a location near RMT to take advantage of the barge service.
• Maintenance dredging alongside RMT’s berth has been completed and ensures the necessary depth for safe operation of the barge.
• Maintenance to ensure the safety of RMT’s wharf is under way.
Some of the more important aspects of the barge, according to Reinhart, are its positive effect on congestion and the environment.