Virginia International Terminals president and CEO Joe Dorto said Tuesday he plans to retire. Dorto came to VIT, a state-formed terminal operating company, in 1988 after almost a decade at the Virginia Port Authority. Under his leadership, the state's ports complex became the third busiest on the East Coast. In recent months, he was a strong defender of VIT as the governor's office scrutinized its financial performance and multiple private companies made offers to replace it.
Dorto said his last day will be Mar. 31. He said his retirement was not prompted by the ongoing privatization debate or a recent state report that spotlighted his and other top VIT employees' compensation packages.
"I originally planned to retire last July" he said, but he was convinced to stay longer after another top ports official, former Virginia Port Authority executive director Jerry Bridges left, and contract negotiations with East Coast dockworkers were twice extended.
Dorto said he told his staffers about his plans Tuesday afternoon.
By leaving in March, Dorto said the ports would be in a strong position, and he would see VIT through both the labor talks and the privatization debate. (The VPA board is scheduled to vote on one of two privatization offers in March.)
"We just had our second best year," Dorto said. "I think the ports are in great shape."
They are also poised for a possible restructuring. A group of lawmakers and the governor's office are working on dueling proposals that would each overhaul VIT and VPA. And if VPA board members opt in March to privatize the ports, APM Terminals or Maher Terminals would replace VIT as terminal operator.
Dorto, 62, said he has no immediate plans during retirement.
"I'll stay active in the maritime community," but will not take a full-time job, he said.
"I want to spend more time with my grandchildren, and improve my golf and tennis games."
Joe Ruddy, VIT's executive vice president and chief operating officer since 2009, said Dorto has been a pleasure to work for.
Specifically, Ruddy said Dorto was a good manager and a brilliant negotiator.
VIT "is a company he's run for years, and he allowed me to implement changes without micromanaging me along the way," Ruddy said.
On top of that, "he's one of the best negotiators I've ever seen."
Dorto's proudest deal was a lease that put VIT in charge of a state-of-the-art container terminal built by APM Terminals in Portsmouth.
The privately run terminal opened in 2007 to handle Maersk Line shipments in Virginia but the facility quickly emerged as a competitor to VIT for container cargo.
Dorto and his team signed up other steamship lines to long-term, 10-year contracts, locking in a sizeable amount of the region's container traffic.
Then in 2010, VIT was able to negotiate a 20-year lease to run the Portsmouth terminal. That deal made VIT the only game in town when it comes to container shipping. It also meant coughing up millions in lease payments, with this year's payment set to rise to $47 million.
In a statement released by the port authority, Dorto called the 2010 lease deal his "proudest professional accomplishment."
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