Transportation part v: Water transportation


by Edwin W. Hauser, J. Dennis Rash, Sherry M. Elmes, and Nicholas J. Swartz, 2005.

Reprinted with permission from The North Carolina Atlas Revisited. Managing editor: Alfred W. Stuart.

Updated by Kurt Brenneman, Government & Heritage Library, 2011.


Transportation topics: Introduction | Highway use | Public transportation | Highway conditions | Water transportation | Air and rail travel | Projected future innovations


North Carolina State Ports


North Carolina has two deep water ports that handle ocean-going vessels. Both are owned and operated by the North Carolina State Ports Authority. The Port of Wilmington offers facilities to handle containerized, bulk, and break-bulk cargoes. That port currently is dredged to a 42-foot channel depth, which allows additional vessel capacity. The port has direct access to Interstates 95 and 40, and daily train service from CSX Transportation.


The 45-foot channel at the Port of Morehead City makes it one of the deepest ports on the U.S. east coast. This port is located four miles from the ocean bar, and handles break-bulk and bulk cargo with access to Interstates 95 and 40via U.S. Highways 70 and 17 and daily train service from Norfolk Southern. Across the Newport River is state-owned Radio Island, a prime site for development. Trends in tonnage shipped from Morehead City and Wilmington Ports are shown in Tables 7 and 8.














Table 7. Tonnage Trend at Morehead City Port

Year

Break-bulk

Bulk

Total

2001

240,203

2,516,973

2,757,176

2002

213,583

1,294,005

1,507,588

2003

243,574

1,296,618

1,540,692

2004

214,948

2,000,643

2,215,591

2005

315,440

2,115,309

2,430,749

2006

375,998

1,922,386

2,298,384

2007

276,128

1,862,213

2,138,441

2008

231,072

1,652,863

1,883,935

2009

167,454

1,725,432

1,892,886

2010

198,965

1,569,747

1,768,712

Source: North Carolina State Ports Authority.














Table 8. Tonnage Trend at the Wilmington Port

Year

Break-bulk

Container

Bulk

Total

2001

844,052

600,014

768,376

2,212,442

2002

1,001,728

628,800

490,929

2,121,457

2003

976,082

613,923

630,799

2,220,804

2004

1,054,214

624,170

648,381

2,326,765

2005

1,271,417

781,046

951,601

3,004,064

2006

1,235,331

955,370

1,270,589

3,461,290

2007

897,776

1,174,335

1,368,550

3,440,661

2008

701,993

1,404,401

1,361,815

3,468,209

2009

413,446

1,338,436

1,322,963

3,074,844

2010

207,335

1,917,237

1,304,755

3,429,237

Source: North Carolina State Ports Authority.


Over the past ten years, a yearly average of approximately 513 ships and barges have called on the Port of Morehead City and approximately 406 ships and barges have called on the Port of Wilmington. More than 70 percent of marine traffic at Morehead City has been barge traffic, with destinations being north or south on the Intercoastal Waterway. Approximately 90 percent of marine traffic at Wilmington has been ocean-going ships. Currently, approximately 250,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units - Containers) are moved at the Port of Wilmington annually.


North Carolina Ferry System


North Carolina has the second largest state-owned ferry system in the nation, with 21 vessels carrying 2.5 million passengers and 1.1 million vehicles annually on seven currently operating routes. These routes are shown in Figure 21. Route number 2 from Currituck to Corolla is not yet in service in mid-2005 due to the lack of docking facilities. Crossing times for each operating route are shown in Table 9. In addition to these public ferries that operate in the North Carolina Sounds, recreational boating is very popular in the Old North State. In addition to these publicly owned vessels operated by the State Ferry Division, there are an additional 16 private ferry companies operating in the inner sound areas that are regulated by the North Carolina Utilities Division. Most of these ferries are for passenger travel only.


Figure 21. State-owned Ferry Service


Map of the state owned ferry service


 












Table 9. Duration of Crossings and Number of Ferries per Day

Ferry

Crossing Time

No. of Crossings/Day (Peak Season)

1. Currituck-Knotts Island

45 minutes

12

2. Hatteras-Ocracoke

40 minutes

63

3. Ocracoke-Swan Quarter

2.5 hours

8

4. Ocracoke-Cedar Island

2.25 hours

12

5. Bayview-Aurora

30 minutes

22

6. Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach

20 minutes

56

7. Southport-Fort Fisher

35 minutes

28

Source: The Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University, Benchmarking and Optimization of the North Carolina Ferry System 2009, 2010.

The North Carolina Ferry System is in itself a tourist attraction. Approximately 7.4 million people go to a large number of North Carolina beaches, sounds, and other coastal areas, particularly in the summer months but also in the fall for major sport fishing. Another aspect of water travel across the state is recreational boating. Trends in recreational boat registrations are shown in Figure 22.


Figure 22. Trends in Recreational Boating Registrations


Trends in recreational boating registrations - graph


Boating is not the only mode of travel related to recreation and tourism, of course. Integrated into the fabric of the state’s various modes are travel destinations and associated economic impacts attributable to travel and tourism. Tourism is an increasingly important part of the state’s economy, ranking in the top ten sectors of the economy in overall economic impact. Another chapter in the ncPedia addresses Travel and Tourismin some detail, so this chapter on Transportation only mentions briefly some statistics concerning transportation, travel, and tourism. Personal vehicle travel accounts for 86 percent of recreational and tourist travel in North Carolina. Air travel accounts for ten percent, including leisure, recreation, touring, etc. A surprising number of visitors to coastal areas travel through on the Intercoastal Waterway, which runs the length of the coastal area from Southport in the south to the Virginia border in Currituck Sound, just north of the village of Currituck. A significant number of visitors arrive by tour buses, both from originations inside the state and from outside. In 2009, over $15.6 billion dollars were spent statewide on tourism.


 

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