Norfolk Southern loads record coal into one ship at Lamberts Point

Norfolk Southern‘s (NYSE: NSC) Pier 6 at Lamberts Point in Virginia again has loaded a record amount of coal into a single ocean-going vessel.

On Sept. 17, Norfolk Southern employees finished loading 166,840 net tons, or 151,356 metric tonnes, of metallurgical coal into the 984-foot M/V China Pioneer, which departed at high tide for Liuzhou Iron and Steel in China, by way of Trinidad. That’s a record for Pier 6 and for the entire Port of Hampton Roads, and it comes just as Pier 6 marks its 50th anniversary.

The coal was shipped by Integrity Coal Sales International in 1,561 railroad coal cars. Anders Williams Resources Inc. was the ship agent/broker.

NS said that it set its previous Pier 6 record on Jan. 12, 2013, by loading 159,941.45 net tons into the M/V Cape DoverThe previous Port of Hampton Roads record was set Feb. 9, 1992, when Dominion Terminal Associates loaded 163,765 net tons into the M/V Ormond.

“The fact that this new record comes at Pier 6’s 50th birthday is a big exclamation point,” said Mark Bower, NS group vice president, export, metallurgical, and industrial coal marketing. “It again demonstrates that NS and our production and sales partners are the experienced, safe, and reliable team for getting American coal to the world’s utilities and coke plants.”

NS holds ceremony to mark major anniversary

Pier 6 opened for business as the hemisphere’s largest, fastest, and most efficient transload facility. In 1999, Pier 6 dumped its billionth ton of coal and became the only facility in the world to have reached that milestone.

In addition to the quantity of its loadings, Pier 6 is known for speed. A little known fact is that, because of design specifications, no vessel anywhere can accept coal into its holds as fast as Pier 6 actually can load it. That likely will remain so for the foreseeable future, NS said.  

Most of the coal moving through Pier 6 originates in coalfields in Southwest Virginia, Southern West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. It is shipped to several dozen countries as well as to coastwise domestic customers. Pier 6 is situated with access to Hampton Roads’ 50-foot-deep channel that allows modern vessels to make productive use of their large holds and deep drafts.

There was a Sept. 18 ceremony for the anniversary of Pier 6 that included remarks by Superintendent of Terminals Jeff Yates, retired Senior Vice President-International Bill Bales, retired Senior Piermaster Bob Welch, T. Parker Host CEO David Host, Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman.

“Pier 6 was an engineering marvel 50 years ago, and it still is today,” Moorman said. “No facility in the world provides the level and quality of service to the global metallurgical and thermal coal markets that Pier 6 does. We have every expectation that it will continue to fill that very large niche for decades to come.”

Pier 6 is unique in its ability to blend coal from different sources to precise formulas as it is being loaded onto ships. It achieves this by dumping coal directly from rail cars into a conveyor system that feeds directly into ships’ holds, in contrast to other facilities that store coal on the ground rather than in rail cars. This is a valuable service to receivers of metallurgical coal, who have exacting blend requirements and can receive the coal ready to use off the ship. Pier 6 also serves the thermal coal market.

In the last five years, Norfolk Southern said it has invested more than $43m to maintain and upgrade track and facilities at Lamberts Point, reflecting the company’s confidence that, even given the challenges facing coal today, the global market will continue to require world-class service into the foreseeable future.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.