State leaders, on Wednesday, toured two new cranes installed at the Port of Wilmington, bought with funds provided in the state budget to allow the port to be able to service larger cargo ships, increasing the capacity the port has to compete with other ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coast.
House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) toured the cranes with three local House legislators, Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) and Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick), as well as Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston).
The legislators were joined by board members and senior staff of the North Carolina State Ports Authority on the tour to view the new cranes that arrived in late March.
The larger cranes will allow the Port of Wilmington to service bigger cargo ships, setting up the port to better compete with nearby ports such as that of Charleston and the Port of Savannah.
“We’re excited to help the Port of Wilmington realize new economic opportunities in partnership with the state General Assembly,” Moore said. “These cranes help connect North Carolina companies with global markets.”
Prior to 2015, the NCSPA received no recurring appropriations from the state General Assembly.
But in 2016 and 2017, the legislature began providing recurring annual appropriations of $35 million to expand the Port of Wilmington and purchase the cranes to increase the port’s economic potential for the state.
For the 2018 and 2019 budget that recurring annual appropriation to NCSPA was increased to $45 million.
“The General Assembly made a long-term commitment to growing the Port of Wilmington and it’s amazing to see these incredible cranes in place,” Grange said.
The funds have also been used to enlarge the ship turning basin, accommodate larger vessels and upgrade the Port of Wilmington’s berths to load and unload multiple freighters simultaneously.
The Port of Wilmington is one of six on the Eastern Seaboard which has unlimited air draft, of the 15 ports on the East Coast.
“The hard work of the General Assembly is paying off for our state ports, a benefit that will help North Carolina’s economy continue to grow from the mountains to the coast,” Torbett said.
Torbett and Iler serve as co-chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
“Our goal is to maximize the Port of Wilmington’s economic effect on not just the coast, but all of North Carolina,” Iler said. “It’s a proud day for the state to see these cranes in place.”
Under the state budget the annually appropriated funds can also be used for dredging maintenance in the future to ensure that the port continues to be a viable economic tool for the state.
Maintaining shipping channels at federally authorized depths remains a challenge in coastal North Carolina and removing sediment from the port is a constant recurring
cost for the port.
“It’s critical that we continue to help the Port of Wilmington grow,” Davis said. “These cranes are only the beginning.”