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North Carolina ports say they're well-staffed and could help alleviate pressure at other ports

NC Ports.jpg
NC Ports
A container ship arrives at the Port of Wilmington on May 12, 2017.

North Carolina's two coastal ports have largely avoided major backups and delays seen at other ports around the country, and they're trying to get the word out that they have room to take in more ships and help alleviate some of the backups.

According to North Carolina Ports Executive Director Brian Clark, the ports of Wilmington and Morehead City have been operating at about 50% of their container ship capacity over the last year.

Clark said he's told shippers that the two ports are well-staffed, and they could help relieve pressure on other major ports if shippers reroute their ships to North Carolina instead.

"We do have the capacity to grow and we are actively engaged with shippers and cargo interests to offer the port as an alternative," Clark said.

He also said he was hopeful that an announcement about more cargo coming to North Carolina could come in the new year.

North Carolina ports typically aren't the first stop for most container and cargo ships, and Clark said the delays at nearby major ports — such as the Port of Savannah — have meant ships sometimes arrive days late in North Carolina.

"The additional challenge that we're seeing is bunching of vessels. That's where multiple ships within the same service arrive on top of each other," he said.

The pandemic also didn't seem to slow the amount of cargo flowing into the state, Clark said. The ports at Morehead City and Wilmington get about 18 container ships a week, and they're on pace to match the record amount of cargo they handled in the last fiscal year — about 3 million tons.

Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal