"It's unbelievable," David Hofe, safety supervisor at Newport News' Dominion Terminal Associates, told the Daily Press. "It's just something we haven't seen for years."
Analysts say the spike in demand can be attributed to a combination of a weakening dollar, growing demand from developing countries such as China and India, and various supply problems in other coal-producing countries.
Coal shipments though the port of Hampton Roads, Va., could rise more than 50 percent in 2008 to between 42 million and 45 million tons. That's up from about 28 million tons in 2007, said David F. Host, president of T. Parker Host Inc., a shipping agent based in Norfolk, Va.
"It's crazy," Host told the paper. "I've seen perfect storms, but this is the ultimate perfect storm. I mean, seriously."
At Dominion Terminal Associates, coal volume through the terminal could surpass 15 million tons this year, more than double what it moved in 2007, said President Charles Brinley. The group plans to boost its 60-person workforce by eight to 10 new employees. In the meantime, Brinley said, terminal operations are running about 40 percent on overtime hours, according to the Daily Press.