With coronavirus slowing down import volumes, the Port of Virginia has temporarily stopped container operations at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal as of May 4th. As this is an older facility, there isn’t a dramatic need for its operation since most of the construction is complete on the port’s expansion project. The Portsmouth Marine Terminal will now temporarily hold three Norweigan Cruise Line ships; the Bliss, Encore, and Spirit.
Now that the expansion project is finishing up, there is no need to maintain operations at PMT. For three consecutive months container exports through the Port of Virginia fell. March 2020 showed a reduction in export traffic of 37% over March of 2019. PMT has been operating as an overflow terminal to handle excess cargo in the months before the coronavirus pandemic. When exports were climbing and US imports were showing record numbers every month, PMT was a vital outlet to take some of the burdens. However, in a positive confluence of timing the slower traffic and construction completion in the port and the older age of PMT have allowed the Port of Virginia to shut that section down and keep container operations to the new construction sections.
The shutdown has enabled PMT to accept three Norwegian cruise ships that had been rotating in and out of ports in Florida, where they’ve been operating with skeleton crews until the pandemic subsides and the cruise industry can get back on its feet. Crew members are required to remain on the ship with any exceptions made at the discretion of the US Customs and Border Patrol.
“This rule will be enforced by officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Any requests for an exception must be made to USCBP and will be considered on a case-by-case basis in full consultation with the CDC.”