WILMINGTON — The North Carolina State Ports Authority’s leader, Paul Cozza, is retiring from his post as executive director and Brian Clark, chief operating officer and deputy executive director, will take over the role.

The announcement was made during the N.C. Ports Board of Directors regularly scheduled June meeting. Mr. Cozza will continue to serve in his role through Thursday, Dec. 31.

According to a release from N.C. Ports, Mr. Cozza was named to the top spot in April 2014 and has worked the past six years to move the authority forward. Under Mr. Cozza’s leadership, N.C. Ports achieved its most profitable years on record, a cornerstone of his strategic vision. The ports also 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 N.C. Port of Wilmington have increased 25% during Mr. Cozza’s tenure, and general cargo at the ports of Wilmington and Morehead City has increased 58%.  

Under Mr. Cozza’s leadership, N.C. Ports has become a significant player in the cold chain sector, the release said. Since 2014, refrigerated container volume through the Port of Wilmington has more than quadrupled. In fiscal year 2020 alone, refrigerated cargo increased 15% year-over-year.

Mr. 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 Wilmington 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,” Mr. Cozza said in the release announcing his retirement. “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.”

 As the N.C. Ports Board of Directors announced Mr. Cozza’s retirement, the 11-member board also named Mr. Clark as the new executive director.

“The Board of Directors is excited to have a proven leader in the maritime industry step into this role,” N.C. Ports Board Chairman Robert Wicker said. “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,” added Eric Boyette, N.C. Department of Transportation secretary. “Brian understands this commitment and we believe his strong leadership will help further Paul’s legacy and expand port business.”

Mr. Clark joined N.C. Ports in June 2017 and has been an integral part of the Ports Authority’s 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.

Mr. Clark has led the charge in transforming N.C. Ports’ facilities into the most efficient on the U.S. East Coast, the release said. 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 N.C. Ports, Mr. Clark served in various senior level positions throughout the maritime industry. He previously served as the managing director for APM Terminals at Port Elizabeth, N.J., and was responsible for directing the overall operations of the marine terminal.

In addition to his time at Port Elizabeth, Mr. Clark spent four years as the project director for APM Terminals in Mobile, Ala., touting a focus on design, contracting and execution of its development.

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