2019 is Record Year for South Carolina Ports Authority

Jim Newsome
Jim Newsome

By The Maritime Executive 10-24-2019 07:27:37

South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) CEO Jim Newsome gave his State of the Port Address on October 21 saying the overarching vision for SCPA remains consistent - to be the preferred port of the top 10 U.S. container ports.

Newsome, who celebrates 10 years at the helm of SCPA this year, said: “Only eight states in the country have a top 10 container port, and South Carolina is one of them. Global businesses locate near major ports, and our port is incredibly well run. The secret to making our port work is the people, and I am immensely proud of the work they do to make us the preferred port in the U.S.”

In fiscal year 2019, SCPA invested in infrastructure, moved into a new headquarters building, further deepened Charleston Harbor and handled the most cargo in the port's history. SCPA handled nearly 2.4 million TEUs in fiscal year 2019, up 8.8 percent from the year prior. SCPA moved approximately 195,000 vehicles and more than 625,000 pier tons.

Inland Port Greer, now in its sixth year of operation, had its busiest year ever with 143,204 rail moves, up 22 percent year-over-year, while Inland Port Dillon handled 29,580 rail moves in its first full year of business.

SCPA has doubled container volume since 2009, something that can be largely attributed to a boom in advanced manufacturing in South Carolina. SCPA is particularly focused on growing retail volumes and recruiting distribution centers to handle the influx of retail imports for the Southeast, which is the fastest-growing region in the country.

SCPA plans to expand the state’s rail network, grow its two rail-served inland ports and increase port rail volumes. SCPA now moves 24 percent of its containerized volumes by intermodal container rail.

Newsome said the agency also supports the development of port-related industrial parks and distribution hubs in South Carolina. SCPA owns a 950-acre, rail-served industrial site in Ridgeville that is poised for distribution center operations.

S.C. Ports expects to complete three major infrastructure projects by the end of 2021: upgrading Wando Welch Terminal, opening a new container terminal and deepening Charleston Harbor.

SCPA remains focused on modernizing Wando Welch Terminal, leading to a capacity of 2.4 million TEUs. By the end of 2020, the Wando terminal will be able to handle three 14,000-TEU ships simultaneously.

SCPA has made major strides on building the future Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal in North Charleston; it is the first greenfield container terminal in the U.S. since 2009. The first phase, which includes a 1,400-foot wharf and five 169-foot-tall ship-to-shore cranes, is set to open along the Cooper River in early 2021. The three-berth Leatherman terminal will double port capacity at full build-out with an additional 2.4 million TEUs of capacity.

Upgrades to Wando terminal and the opening of Leatherman terminal will enable the port to handle four 14,000-TEU ships at once, as well as handle a 19,000-TEU ship.

Deepening of the entrance channel to 54 feet is underway, and deepening of the lower harbor up to Wando Welch Terminal recently started with the awarding of the third contract. Deepening this section of the Wando River to 52 feet and widening the turning basin to 1,650 feet will greatly increase capabilities at the Wando terminal. Future project work involves deepening the Cooper River to 52 feet up to the Leatherman terminal.

By 2021, Charleston will have the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet. This will ensure large container ships can access SCPA terminals at any time, regardless of the tides.

SCPA makes a $63.4 billion annual economic impact on South Carolina and creates one in 10 South Carolina jobs, according to a new Economic Impact Study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. The analysis, authored by research economist Joey Von Nessen, finds that the ports’s operations and all associated activities correspond to nearly 225,000 jobs in South Carolina. Port operations account for 10 percent of the state’s economy and generate around $1.1 billion in tax revenue annually for the state, the study found.