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Port of Virginia shipping channel opens to two-way traffic

Posted on March 20, 2024

The Port of Virginia now has the widest shipping channel on the east coast.

That means you may see two ultra-large container vessels passing each other in the channel. This helps strengthen the economy and gets the products you want to shelves faster.

“The more we can do, the more we invest, the better it is for Virginia,” said Port of Virginia Spokesperson Joe Harris. “Also, this port’s a critical piece of the national economy.”

Two areas of the channel have been widened to allow for two-way traffic. Widening in one area was completed in 2023, widening in the other area was completed earlier in 2024.

The project that has taken two decades of planning.

“We have almost all of the large international shipping lines calling here,” Harris explained. “What this says to them is that you can bring your next class, your next size of vessel, to Virginia without concern.”

That’s important because, according to the port, the port and the cargo going through it employees about 560,000 Virginians and generates about $40 billion a year in revenue.

“On the west side of the (Chesapeake Bay Bridge)…the channel’s been widened, on this side of the channel, to 1,400 feet,” said Virginia Pilot association President Whiting Chisman, gesturing to a digital chart showing the shipping channel.

Whitiing Chisman explaining shipping chart

The Virginia Pilot Association guides ships into port. The 1,400-foot width, he said, extends from buoys 19 down to buoys 13 and 14.

“On the east side of the channel…this channel was open to 1,300 feet back in November,” said Chisman.

Seeing the two-way traffic is exciting for him, especially because he was heavily involved in the planning process.

“I was very pleased to see that it worked as well as it did because it was in line with everything that we had planned for,” Chisman said.

As of March 2024, dredging to deepen the channel from 50 to 55 feet in the Norfolk harbor and 50 to 59 feet in the ocean approach was expected to be complete in 2025.

According to the port, the port will then have both the widest and deepest channel on the east coast.

This is part of a $1.4 billion infrastructure investment with funds from the port, the state of Virginia and the federal government to improve the port as a whole.


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