The Economic Prospects of the North Carolina International Terminal

The container terminal project conceived by the North Carolina State Ports Authority and developed by its consultants would handle 3,000,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of containers per year–more than any on the East Coast except the combined terminals at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. This is also more than ten times the container traffic at the Port of Wilmington, 20 miles upriver, in its best year.

The business plan prepared by the consultants proposes private financing for the terminal, based on such container movements and container handling charges approximately equal to the charges at other ports in the region. But the Port of Wilmington is able to sustain its container traffic only by charging substantially less than other ports. Even so, the Port of Wilmington handles only about 20% of international container traffic originating in and destined for businesses in North Carolina. The remaining 80% moves through ports in neighboring states–ports that are more accessible by road and rail and, because of higher volume, can offer more frequent service to more destinations.

This bureaucratic denial of geographic and commercial reality continues despite many, many studies demonstrating the futility of continuing.

Click here for an analysis of the economic and environmental aspects of the proposed container terminal, delivered to the Governor’s Logistics Task Force on September 21, 2010.

Click here for an analysis of container ports in and out of state serving the export and import needs of North Carolina businesses, delivered to the North Carolina Secretary of Commerce on January 5, 2011.

Click here for the Official Statement of the North Carolina State Ports Authority issued in connection with a bond issue in February 2010, which includes, as Appendix B, a market analysis and ten-year forecast of container traffic at the Port of Wilmington prepared by Moffatt & Nichol.

Click here for a critical analysis of the claims of jobs and other economic impacts made by the North Carolina State Ports Authority.

Click here for the business plan of the North Carolina State Ports Authority prepared by Moffatt & Nichol and delivered in February 2011, calling for dredging the Cape Fear River to a depth of 50 feet.

Brief Fact Sheets

Some Facts about the Planned Megaport

Aerial Photo of the Terminal Site Showing Sunny Point and the Brunswick Nuclear Plant

The Estimated Cost of the Planned Megaport

Recent Port Studies and their Costs

The Fallacy of a Forecast

Southeastern Container Port Capacities and Anticipate Demand

Ports of Choice for North Carolina International Trade

Ports of Choice for North Carolina Exports

Southeastern US Container Movements and Ships Calls

Container Movement Handling Charges

The Channel Turn at the Mouth of the Cape Fear River

Southeastern Container Port Service Areas

North Carolina State Ports Authority Financial Performance

East Coast Channel Depths and Dredging Projects

The Hidden Cost of a Container Terminal

The Claims of Jobs


The Public Policy Issue

The North Carolina International Terminal project is designed to facilitate import of containerized freight from Asia, and would involve a substantial subsidy from both Federal and State tax funds. Click here for a report by the Economic Policy Institute on the effect of this subsidy and the growing trade deficit with China. Click here for a report by the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition on the effects on economic growth and jobs in North Carolina.

All of this is illustrated by this video by The Capitol Steps.