Friday, May 24, 2024

Eastern: Chipper shippers

It’s not quite Phoenix rising from the ashes, but the N.C. State Ports Authority’s ability to recover quickly from the loss of a key client is sparking joy at the state-chartered agency. The operator of the ports at Wilmington and Morehead City relied on Korea’s Hanjin Shipping for about 7.5% of annual revenue, or about $3 million, before the company’s abrupt bankruptcy filing in August.

In mid-October, the authority said a partnership of the world’s two biggest shippers — Denmark’s Maersk Line and Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. — would replace the capacity lost by Hanjin’s failure.

Until its closure, Hanjin Shipping, the seventh-largest container shipping company, had made weekly deliveries of Chinese-made furniture, clothing and other products and picked up U.S.-made goods for export. N.C. customers included Lowe’s and Ashley Furniture.

But with global trade growth plummeting to less than 2% annually — it was expanding at a more than 10% clip a decade back — it’s a terrible time to be in the shipping business, with many shippers reporting big losses. About 3,000 creditors are seeking $800 million from the company, with North American terminals accounting for more than 40% of claims, according to, an online trade publication. The N.C. State Ports Authority is owed less than $1 million.

Sluggish economies in Asia, Europe and the United States are causing the trade blues, while a movement for “local sourcing” and talk of more protectionism also play a role, says Paul Cozza, the authority’s executive director. “Globalization isn’t moving as quickly as in the past,” he adds.

Even with the pie not expanding, North Carolina ports may grab a bigger slice because of its low costs, limited congestion and the Southeast’s relatively strong economy, Cozza says. The authority is investing $100 million to improve service, including a new shipping berth, a wider turning basin and better roads. The goal: Double volume by 2020 to 600,000 units of cargo. More than 70% of the U.S. industrial base operates within 700 miles of Wilmington.

The new service from Maersk and MedShip underscores confidence in the N.C. ports, Cozza adds. Maersk already provides service between the ports and Latin America, while MedShip is a new entrant. “The new service is specifically more than a one-to-one tradeoff [with Hanjin’s departure] because we have other members of their alliance still talking about bringing other service here,” he says.

Photo provided by N.C. State Ports Authority

Aquatic Development Group is building a $46 million waterpark in Powells Point, about 13 miles northwest of Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks. H2OBX will include 30 waterslides, a surfing simulator, two wave pools, a pirate-themed play structure and 50 private cabanas. The 80-acre park is expected to create more than 200 seasonal jobs. The Cohoes, N.Y.-based company’s portfolio includes attractions for Six Flags, SeaWorld, Wet n’ Wild and others. Development partners include local attorney Jeff Malarney and Arthur Berry III, co-owner of Camelback Resort, a lodge with an indoor waterpark in Tannersville, Pa. The park will open next summer.

WILSON – Voith Paper North America will close its press-fabric manufacturing plant, idling 70 employees by May. The company is a division of Voith, a family-owned German business that employs 20,000 people worldwide.

ST. PAULS – Pepsi Bottling Ventures will create 50 jobs and invest $16.5 million in a new distribution center. The Raleigh-based company is the largest private Pepsi manufacturer and distributor in the U.S. and employs more than 2,000 people.

GOLDSBORO – AT&T will close a call center here and lay off 95 employees after its building suffered damage from Hurricane Matthew. Affected employees can transfer to other locations. The center once employed 400 people.

WILMINGTON – New Hanover Regional Medical Center promoted five employees to vice president, including Amy Akers, patient services; Dan Goodwin, physician network; Kristy Hubard, strategic services; Amy Messier, clinical integration and informatics; and Laurie Whalin, clinical support services. The 769-bed hospital employs more than 6,000 people.

FAYETTEVILLE – Methodist University raised more than $41 million in its latest capital campaign, a campus record. The money will be used for scholarships, academic programs, athletic facilities, and construction and renovations of campus buildings. The university enrolls about 2,400 students.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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