06/14/05 — Logistics expert says N.C. ports have potential to bring in billions

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Logistics expert says N.C. ports have potential to bring in billions

By Jim Meachen
Published in News on June 14, 2005 1:47 PM

Earl F. Brinkley brought his vision for eastern North Carolina back to Goldsboro Monday.

Eastern North Carolina is missing out on billions of dollars by failing to develop the ports at Wilmington and Morehead City and upgrading the railroad system, Brinkley told the Kiwanis Club of Goldsboro at its noon meeting.

Brinkley, president of Accu-Track Logistics of Wallace, gave the same message at a meeting of the Wayne County Transportation Committee earlier this year:

*Improve the ports of Morehead City and Wilmington and particularly the already deep-water port at Morehead to accommodate large container ships;

*Improve inland transportation, specifically through upgrading rail lines from Wilmington and Morehead City;

*Create an inland ocean cargo terminal in the Goldsboro-Selma area close to interstate highways 40 and 95 and near the crossroads of east-west and north-south rail lines;

*Use the large runway at the Global TransPark in Kinston as an air cargo center;

*Create cruise ship terminals in both Morehead and Wilmington.

Prior to forming Accu-Track Logistics in his home town of Wallace in 2004, Brinkley was director of worldwide logistics for the John Deere Tractor and Implement Company.

"When I was a logistics director, we couldn't use the ports in North Carolina, except when goods were exported to Russia," he said. "I always wanted to find a way to improve the way products were transported throughout the state."

Brinkley cited the port in Charleston, S.C., as a model of what can be done with planning and the proper infrastructure.

In 2004, Charleston handled 16 percent of East Coast shipping, unloading 2,385 ships and $39 billion in cargo. He said the port creates 281,660 jobs and $9.4 billion a year in wages.

Brinkley said that Wilmington is getting about 2 percent of the general cargo on the East Coast, and that Morehead wasn't getting less than 1 percent.

Brinkley said the Morehead City port has a 45-foot deep channel, about the same as Charleston, and is only four miles from open ocean. Charleston's port is 10 miles from open sea.

But getting to Morehead City or to Wilmington by land is more difficult than reaching most of the other ports on the East Coast. Trucks must travel via U.S. 70 and 24 through town to the Morehead port, he said.

"And Wilmington has a similar problem. Since I-40 ends at the city limits, both 421 and the interstate travel through city streets to the port," he said.

He recommended that North Carolina create a deep channel container port in Morehead City for the larger ships, and let Wilmington focus on the smaller ship traffic.

The state could improve the ports' viability by building rail lines up to the docks. Freight containers could be taken off ships and loaded directly onto trains and transported to an inland container yard in Wayne or Johnston counties.

North Carolina has an inland terminal in Greensboro and one in Charlotte. Those serve mainly the western part of the state, but the state is lacking by not having one in the eastern section of the state, Brinkley said.

Brinkley said that if the Morehead City port handled 1 million containers a year -- 16 million arrive in the U.S. annually -- it would add 164,000 jobs to the region, generate $5.4 billion in wages and add $1.45 billion in new taxes.

Brinkley said he has no political ax to grind and no monetary involvement, but he welcomes opportunities to speak about his vision of bringing sustained economic growth to the eastern part of the state.