As the terminal currently undergoes several optimisation programmes to build upon its semi-automation capabilities, creating capacity for additional freight and furthering its need for reliable and ubiquitous connectivity on-site, the Norfolk International Terminal (NIT) has announced an agreement to build a Verizon Business Private 5G Network at its Virginia facility.

The Port of Virginia described itself as America’s most modern gateway, with NIT playing a key role in its operations on the Atlantic coast. NIT is separated into three different sections: the North Terminal, the South Terminal and the Central Rail Yard. It currently has an annual throughput of 2.2 million TEUs – 20-foot equivalent units, the industry measure of volume in units of 20-foot long containers – with direct access to rail and interstate systems.

The two expansion projects it’s carrying out are designed to increase the total annual throughput capacity to 3.6M TEUs. The main North NIT optimisation is worth $650m alone, and involves innovating, expanding and modernising the North Terminal at NIT to create capacity for 1.4 million annual TEUs, including the installation of new ship-to-shore cranes and a reconfigured container stack yard supported by semiautomated stacking cranes.

The deal with Verizon Business follows the successful deployment of a private 5G network at sister port Virginia International Terminal (VIT) in 2022, and the new deployment is said to highlight the scalability of private 5G networks to meet unique connectivity demands throughout a complex, data-rich environment.

The Private 5G Network at NIT will cover 270 acres of the NIT campus with dedicated Ultra Wideband spectrum, replacing spotty outdoor Wi-Fi and enabling secure, instant voice, text and data communication on the campus through Verizon Push to Talk Plus (PTT). The technology provider regards PTT as a mobile app ideal for industrial and commercial worksite collaboration across phones, smartphones and tablets, through the private network.

Verizon added that dedicated Ultra Wideband spectrum and private network infrastructure at NIT can also meet the throughput, reliability and latency thresholds necessary for benefits and ongoing uses such as drones for safety and surveillance, autonomous trucks and mobile cranes, and cost reduction from reduced downtime and improved operational efficiency.

“Our work with Verizon Business has been a true partnership in both building applications and deploying solutions to best address our unique needs,” said Rich Ceci, senior vice-president of technology and products at NIT and the Port of Virginia. “Shipping terminals are rugged, constantly changing outdoor environments that require super-reliable, ubiquitous connectivity for safe and adaptable operation. Verizon Private 5G provides that and gives us flexibility to scale up and layer on more capability as our needs evolve.”

Ericsson will be the sole hardware supplier to Verizon for the network buildout at NIT. As the terminal continues to optimise its operations, Verizon was confident its private 5G would provide the connectivity foundation for adopting new sensor technology, machine learning and intelligence applications, and inventory management.

“The expansion of Verizon’s private 5G presence at the Port of Virginia shows that companies can modernise and improve their operations by starting small with new technology, proving out the use cases and applications that are right for their business, and then scaling up to do even more,” said Kyle Malady, CEO of Verizon Business. “The Port of Virginia, through the private 5G journeys at VIT and NIT, epitomise how to adopt cutting-edge technology to transform a business efficiently and productively.”

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