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FEATURE: SC Ports fiscal year Container Volume climbs nine percent; Port’s first 13,000 TEU vessel expected in May

Category: Ports & Transportation

Brunswick Business Journal Staff Report

April 24, 2017 - South Carolina Ports Authority completed the third quarter of its fiscal year with nine percent year-over-year growth of twenty foot-equivalent units (TEUs) and record-breaking March volumes.

As previously announced, SCPA has handled 1.58 million TEUs since July, compared to 1.45 million during the same period last fiscal year. March was the strongest month in the Port’s history, with 192,411 TEUs handled during the month.  Georgia Ports also had a record month.

From a calendar year perspective, SCPA’s first quarter TEU volume exceeded the same period last year by 16.8 percent. The Port has handled 553,248 TEUs since January.

Pier container volume reached an all-time high in March, with 108,961 boxes moving across Charleston docks. The month was 13.4 percent higher than March 2016 and surpassed the Port’s previous pier container volume record of 104,792 boxes set in January. Fiscal year to date, SCPA has handled nearly 900,000 pier containers.

In non-containerized cargo, SCPA handled 82,550 pier tons in March. Charleston breakbulk volume is 8.7 percent ahead of fiscal year plans, reaching 634,794 tons since July.

SCPA’s strong container volume boosted Inland Port Greer’s March results to a record-breaking 11,669 lifts. The month was 22 percent higher than the previous record of 9,593 lifts in January 2017. Fiscal year to date, Greer has handled 84,874 lifts.

“With the highest container volume ever handled by our port and record rail moves at Inland Port Greer, March was an exceptionally strong finish to the third quarter,” said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO.

“We’re seeing healthy growth of both import and export cargo and are on target for achieving our planned container volume growth of six percent this fiscal year. Over the next quarter, we will be monitoring the impacts of the mega-alliances and look forward to handling our first 13,000 TEU vessel, the COSCO Development, on May 13.”

Charleston Prepares for 13,000 TEU Ship

SCPA announced last week that it will welcome the biggest ship ever to call the U.S. East Coast in May. The COSCO Development, a 13,092 TEU vessel, is deployed on the weekly OCEAN Alliance South Atlantic Express (SAX) service that connects Charleston with Hong Kong, Yantian, Ningbo and Shanghai via the Panama Canal. The COSCO Development is one of 11 ships on the SAX service, comprised of vessels ranging in size from 11,000 to 13,000 TEUs. Today 18 of SCPA’s 24 weekly container vessel services are comprised of ships too large to transit the Panama Canal prior to its expansion.

Wide and deep channels, ample terminal capacity and super post-Panamax cranes allow Charleston to be the last East Coast port of call for the COSCO Development. The progress of the vessel can be tracked at

South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston, Georgetown and Greer.

In 2015 SCPA handled international commerce valued at more than $74 billion while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. An economic development engine for the state, Port operations facilitate 187,200 statewide jobs and generate nearly $53 billion annual economic activity.

Home to the Southeast’s deepest port, SCPA is the industry leader in delivering speed-to-market, seamless processes and flexibility to ensure reliable operations, big ship handling, efficient market reach and environmental responsibility, according to the Authority. 

The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project

In December, the U.S. Senate passed S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act (WIIN), which included Congressional authorization for the 52-foot Charleston Harbor Deepening Project.

“The passage of WIIN marks one of the most significant milestones in the history of the Port of Charleston,” states Newsome.  “With this important step by Congress, we now turn our attention to inclusion in the President’s FY2018 budget, relative to the construction phase of the harbor deepening project. By the end of the decade, we will achieve 52 feet of depth and Charleston will be the deepest harbor on the East Coast. This depth advantage will add significant capability in the fastest growing port region in the U.S., the Southeast. This is vitally important for significant long-term volume growth and the deployment of large container ships. We are extremely grateful to many for their tireless efforts ensuring this bill moves forward; the leadership in the U.S. Congress, specifically Chairman Inhofe of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Chairman Shuster of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, Governor Nikki Haley, and the South Carolina Legislature. We look forward to a continued, productive partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project progresses. Last but certainly not least I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our port staff and specifically Barbara Melvin, our Senior Vice President of Operations and Terminals, who guided this process for us from its inception in 2010 through this authorization.”

The WIIN bill authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report for the construction phase of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, ensuring the project can remain on schedule. By achieving 52 feet of depth, SCPA will be able to accommodate fully-loaded new-Panamax container ships without tidal restriction.



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