- About VMA
- Facilities Guide
- Career Center
- Commerce Development
|Virginia Maritime Association's History|
The Virginia's ports have been a boon to Virginia and the world for nearly four centuries. From the early founding as "America's First Port" at Jamestown in 1607 through the era of the great clipper ships to the present day sophistication of computerized inter-modal technology, Virginia has been at the forefront of every major change in the shipping industry.
The early growth of the Commonwealth was due to the cooperative effort of private and public servants, each investing their time to strengthen the outlook for Virginia’s future. Soon commerce and trade began to flourish.
The Virginia Maritime Association was organized in 1920 to promote, protect and encourage international and domestic commerce through Virginia’s Ports. First known was the Norfolk Maritime Exchange (1920), the association has undergone several name changes reflecting the growth and influence throughout the region and Commonwealth- Hampton Roads Maritime Exchange (1922), Hampton Roads Maritime Association (1945) to present day Virginia Maritime Association (2006).
The Virginia Maritime Association seeks and advocates for the continued growth of Virginia’s maritime industries and plays a significant leadership role to ensure that Virginia remains competitive as it relates to waterborne commerce.
Highlights of advocacy and historical milestones by the Association throughout the years:1920- 13 February, 56 maritime business leaders sign as the founding members of the Norfolk Maritime Exchange.
1923- Exchange actively persists and purchase of fire-boat to protect port.
1924 - Recommendation to Congress to fund Norfolk Harbor project and Thimble Shoal Channel.
1926 - Requests and achieves funding from Congress for channel improvements for Southern and Eastern Branches
of Elizabeth River.
1928- Exchange obtains authorization for additional anchorage off Lambert's Point to manage increased demands.
1936- Installation of bulk cargo handling facilities, placing port in forefront of the ports on Atlantic coast.
1939- Exchange lends aid to the development of a Municipal airport in Norfolk.
1941- Committee established to address ways to aid the government defense program in World War II.
1956- Quote from 1956 Annual " This was a banner year. Never before in the long history of the port, has there been
as much business, as many ports, as many new and expanded facilities and services, as many ships loading
and unloading, or sailing to as many ports, as many people earning a living on maritime activities, nor a keener
understanding of the value of the port to the community and the State."
1957- The $6.5 million Craney Island Disposal area, initiated and sponsored by the HRMA placed in operation.
1966- Harry M. Thompson, executive vice president and secretary retires after 46 years of service to the Association.
1977- Lack of proper state funding for port development is impetus for HRMA to employ a legislative representative
1981- Many factors have contributed to the port's phenomenal growth, but none is as important as unification of the
ports in the Hampton Roads harbor. In 1981, the Virginia General Assembly passed landmark legislation
designed to unify the ports under a single agency, the Virginia Port Authority, with a new single operating
company, Virginia International Terminals, Inc. Unification has made Hampton Roads one of the fastest
growing port complexes in the United States.
1986- After years of advocacy by HRMA, legislation passed authorizing 55-foot channel project for Hampton Roads.
1993- HRMA awarded the President's "E Star" Award for export service by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
2003- Defended against a major initiative to tax waterfront pier owners retroactively and prospectively that would
have cost the industry millions of dollars annually. VMA efforts resulted in a statutory exemption for the
2008- Secured state funding to enable construction of the Heartland Corridor project designed to significantly
reduce transit times to the Midwest market.
2013- Reacted to unsolicited proposals for privatization of the state-owned terminals. The General Assembly took
three actions related to privatization of the operations at state-owned terminals: 1) Legislation was passed that
will institute reforms at VPA/VIT designed to eliminate redundancy and reduce expenses. This legislation also
prevents the Commonwealth from accepting unsolicited proposals under the PPTA for VPA facilities and
operations while preserving its ability to partner with the private sector. 2) The Joint Legislative Audit and
Review Committee (JLARC) is directed to study the port’s competitiveness, efficiency and governance structure
and report its findings to the General Assembly. 3) Lawmakers amended the state budget to include language
prohibiting any sale or lease of the Port of Virginia until a comprehensive study of port operations has been
completed, and any such sale or lease has been subsequently approved by the General Assembly.
2014- The General Assembly amended the Code of Virginia relating to the Board of Commissioners of the VPA to
specify "the Governor shall appoint at least one member with maritime shipping experience from a list of at
least three nominees provided by the Virginia Maritime Association, who shall not be a paid member of the
Virginia Maritime Association or have any other conflict of interest with the Virginia Port Authority.” This
change was sought by VMA to ensure the maritime community would always have representation on the
Virginia Port Authority Board.
2016- Virginia General Assembly appropriates $350 million in funding toward capital improvements for Norfolk
International Terminals. This one time funding is the largest single allocation of state funds toward port
infrastructure to date.