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North Carolina Ports executive director retiring, successor named

portThe North Carolina State Ports Authority’s leader, Paul J. Cozza, is retiring from his post as executive director. The announcement was made during the North Carolina Ports board of directors regularly scheduled June meeting. Cozza will continue to serve in his role through Dec. 31 at which point Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director Brian E. Clark will take over as executive director.

Cozza was named to the top spot in April 2014 and has worked diligently over the past six years to move North Carolina Ports forward. Under Cozza’s leadership, N.C. Ports achieved its most profitable years on record, a cornerstone of his strategic vision; embarked on a more than $200 million capital improvements plan; reintroduced intermodal rail; and welcomed the largest container vessels in the Ports Authority’s history.  Additionally, container volumes through the port of Wilmington have increased 25 percent during his tenure. General cargo at the ports of Wilmington and Morehead City has increased an astounding 58 percent.  

Most notably under Cozza’s leadership, N.C. Ports has become a significant player in the cold chain sector. Since 2014, refrigerated container volume through the port of Wilmington has more than quadrupled. In FY2020 alone, refrigerated cargo increased 15 percent year-over-year. Cozza was instrumental in the development of the Ports Authority’s annual Cold Chain Summit, which brings industry leaders and cold chain sector experts to the Port City every year.

“It has been an honor to lead North Carolina Ports. Our organization has made tremendous strides over the last several years and it has been exciting to be a part of the progress and witness its positive impacts on our state,” said Cozza. “As I step away, I know our dedicated team will continue to build on this success and further grow NC Ports as an economic leader for North Carolina.”

“The board of directors is excited to have a proven leader in the maritime industry step into this role,” said Robert A. Wicker, chairman, North Carolina Ports board of directors. “It has long been a part of our plan to have Brian move up within the organization and we are confident his more than 20 years of experience will continue to propel NC Ports forward as a competitive East Coast port.”

“Our ports play an important role in North Carolina whether that’s through better supporting our state’s transportation network or through the billions of dollars it contributes to our state’s economy every year. Brian understands this commitment and we believe his strong leadership will help further Paul’s legacy and expand port business,” said Eric Boyette, North Carolina Department of Transportation secretary.

Clark joined North Carolina Ports in June 2017 and has been an integral part of the Ports Authority’s record-breaking operational achievements. Most recently, the port of Wilmington welcomed its largest container ship thanks to the completion of four major waterside projects including, a wider turning basin, berth renovations, air draft improvements and the addition of three neo-Panamax cranes.

Clark has led the charge in transforming N.C. Ports’ facilities into the most efficient on the United States East Coast. Late last year, the port of Wilmington was named the most productive port and Wilmington’s Container Terminal the most productive terminal.

Prior to joining North Carolina Ports, Clark served in various senior level positions throughout the maritime industry. He previously served as the managing director for APM Terminals at port Elizabeth, NJ, and was responsible for directing the overall operations of the marine terminal. In addition to his time at port Elizabeth, he spent four years as the project director for APM Terminals in Mobile, AL, touting a focus on design, contracting and execution of its development.

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