South Carolina To Open First New U.S. Container Terminal in 11 Years

South Carolina is preparing to open the first new container terminal in the US in 11 years
Work progresses on the 1,400-foot-wharf, the country's newest container terminal. (Photo/SCPA/Walter Lagarenne)

Published Jun 30, 2020 7:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

The South Carolina Ports Authority adopted its fiscal year 2021 budget including significant investments to continue the growth in the ports. Among the projects is the opening of the first new container terminal in the US in 11 years.

South Carolina’s plan projects that the ports will handle more than 1.24 million pier containers from July 1 through June 30, 2021. The board expects $264.2 million in operating revenues, which is estimated to generate $81.4 million in operating cash flow.

“We are in the final year of a six-year capital improvement plan,” S.C. Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “We are preparing for our major infrastructure projects to come online in 2021, while also continuing to ensure that our port works incredibly well. We have the best team in place to execute our goals.”

The board unanimously approved a $319 million capital spending plan for fiscal year 2021. Most of those funds will be used to finish building phase one of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal. The Leatherman Terminal, set to open in March, will be the first new container terminal in the U.S. since 2009.

When completed, the first phase of the new terminal will have a 1,400-foot-wharf, five ship-to-shore cranes with 169 feet of lift height, 25 hybrid rubber-tiered gantry cranes, and the ability to handle 19,000-TEU vessels. Combined with upgrades at the current terminal, S.C. Ports will be able to handle four 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously. As part of the capital projects, the port is also deepening Charleston harbor to achieve a 52-foot depth in 2021, further enabling mega container ships to access port terminals.

“The opening of the Leatherman Terminal will mark an extension of the successful container operations concept at the Wando Terminal with the transfer of four large ship services to that location at its opening while leveraging SCPA’s existing workforce,” Newsome said.

Keeping freight moving

South Carolina Ports also reported that volumes have remained steady for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020 compared to the year prior. May volumes, however, were down year-over-year due to COVID-19 disrupting global supply chains and temporarily halting operations for many businesses and manufacturers.

The Port of Charleston reported that it handled 169,705 TEUs in May, bringing its total to nearly 2.2 million TEUs from July 2019 through May 30. In May, S.C. Ports moved 97,966 pier containers, which measures the total number of boxes handled. This brings the fiscal-year-to-date total of pier containers to 1.23 million.

“We were on track for another record fiscal year until the pandemic happened,” Newsome said. “Nevertheless, ports are a long-term business requiring long-term planning. We have great fundamentals as a growing port in the Southeast. We will continue to thrive. Our future is very bright.”