THE port of Wilmington in North Carolina expects to complete the expansion of its refrigerated container yard in April, tripling its reefer storage capacity to 1,000 plugs, as part of its US$200 million infrastructure improvement plan.
This comes after the port raised the height of its electricity transmission lines in December to enable it to handle 14,000 TEU ships, reported IHS Media.
With the expected March completion of the project to widen the port's turning basis, the port will be able to boost its handling capabilities that are currently capped at 12,000 TEU ships. The six weekly container services calling at the port deploy ships ranging in size from 8,500 TEU to 12,000 TEU, according to North Carolina Ports.
"Not only does it open the port of Wilmington to some of the largest ships calling on the United States east coast, but it allows NC Ports to better support the needs of its customers," chief operating officer Brian Clark said.
In the first 11 months of 2019, laden container volume through the port dropped by 6.2 per cent year over year, to 232,537 TEU, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Markit. US east coast ports saw average growth of seven per cent in the same period.
Soon after the port's refrigerated container yard is expanded, work will begin on upgrading the container gate complex and the deployment of a new terminal operating system, both of which are set to be completed by the end of the year. Ultimately, the investment will double the port's annual capacity to 1.2 million TEU.
Initial work on widening the turning basin from 1,200 feet to 1,400 feet was finished in 2016. The second phase of the project will further widen the basin to 1,524 feet.
"When you couple the completion of the turning basin with our berth enhancements and lack of congestion, North Carolina Ports will continue to offer superior vessel productivity for any sized vessel calling the east coast," said spokesperson Bethany Welch.
However, the wider basin won't ease navigation restrictions that prevent larger ships from calling at the port during low tide. The port plans to deepen its harbour from 42 feet during low tide to 47 feet, but that's still in the early stages, with feasibility studies yet to be completed.