Reefer volume and ship size up in North Carolina

The North Carolina State Ports Authority is celebrating a refrigerated container volume record and the expected arrival of the largest vessel ever to call the Port of Wilmington.

NC Ports said it moved 1,459 refrigerated containers — 2,918 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) — through the Port of Wilmington in April. It did not say what the previous record was. 

“Our record-setting April highlights our expanding perishables portfolio as we have quadrupled refrigerated container volume over the last five years,” Executive Director Paul J. Cozza said in a statement.

The authority operates seaports in both Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina.

NC Ports also tweeted this week that the largest ship to call in its history will visit the Port of Wilmington next week. The MV Hyundai Hope has a capacity of 14,000 TEUs, according to NC Ports.

NC Ports did not say when the Hope is expected to berth at the Port of Wilmington. Vessel Finder said the container ship was due to arrive in New York at 1 p.m. Saturday. The reefer volume on board was not reported.

The Port of Wilmington increased its on-terminal reefer plugs from 235 to 775 in mid-April with the completion of a new refrigerated container yard. 

NC Ports said despite volatility due to the coronavirus pandemic, its reefer volumes are up 20% in the current fiscal year through the end of April. The ports’ fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. 

It said reefer volumes grew by more than 225% from fiscal year 2014 to 2019 and that pork and poultry products are the leading reefer exports and bananas are the biggest import.

NC Ports Chief Commercial Officer Hans C.E. Bean said reefer demand has continued to grow during the coronavirus pandemic.

“While there is still much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we continue to see growth in both import and export demand through the Port of Wilmington,” Bean said. “To support this growth, we are making the necessary investments to improve and expand our capabilities, which in turn will benefit the North Carolina agriculture industry, the state’s grocery sector and additional cold chain users.”

NC Ports did not respond to questions about total volumes for April or blanked sailings by publication time.