SC Ports Handles Nearly 3 Million TEUs in 2022

Port of Charleston
SC Ports has the capacity to support South Carolina's economic growth. (Photo/SCPA/English Purcell)

Published Jan 19, 2023 1:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Carolina Ports had a record 2022 with the most containers ever handled at the Port of Charleston.

SC Ports moved nearly 2.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2022, a 1.5% increase over 2021. When accounting for containers of any size, SC Ports moved more than 1.5 million pier containers in 2022, a 1% increase from 2021.

“South Carolina’s excellent port team and maritime community efficiently handled record cargo volumes and expertly navigated supply chain challenges to keep freight moving for our customers,” SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin said.

With the resumption of cruises, SC Ports had 261,636 cruise passengers come through the Passenger Terminal last year.

SC Ports moved 199,343 vehicles across the docks of Columbus Street Terminal in 2022, further connecting South Carolina’s automakers with global consumers.

Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon handled a combined 167,147 rail moves in 2022, enabling more companies throughout the Southeast to quickly move goods to and from the port via rail.

“South Carolina Ports serves as South Carolina’s gateway to the world, giving companies direct access to global markets,” Melvin said. “We proudly move goods for advanced manufacturers, retailers, farmers, medical providers, grocery stores, solar panel producers and small businesses, helping to support 225,000 jobs in South Carolina.”

Booming business in SC
South Carolina’s economy is booming as companies make big investments to expand operations and open new facilities to take advantage of the state’s strong business climate, excellent workforce, expansive infrastructure network and world-class port.

“South Carolina’s booming economy is breaking records left and right because of the communication, collaboration and cooperation among our unmatched strategic assets, including the South Carolina Ports Authority,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said. “Our ports’ success creates prosperity, growth and opportunity for South Carolinians, which means today’s announcement is a sign of more good things to come.”

In 2022, the South Carolina Department of Commerce secured more than $10 billion in total capital investment from companies establishing or expanding operations in South Carolina. This record investment amount represents 120 projects and more than 14,000 announced new jobs.

“South Carolina is experiencing unprecedented economic development growth as domestic and international companies, alike, recognize the long-term potential within our borders,” Secretary of Commerce Harry M. Lightsey III. “The South Carolina Department of Commerce is proud to collaborate with allied partners and state leadership to prioritize strategic infrastructure investments that help existing and future industry realize that success and maximize efficiencies while creating opportunities for all South Carolinians.”

Many of these economic development wins are port-dependent businesses that rely on SC Ports to import goods for production and export products for overseas consumption.

“Major business announcements and expansions are happening in South Carolina, and we have strategically invested in critical port infrastructure to support the growth occurring today and into the future,” SC Ports Board Chairman Bill Stern said.

Strong infrastructure in SC
With great support from the state, SC Ports has invested more than $2 billion into port infrastructure in recent years to support the state’s booming business sector. Combined with port funding and state funding, SC Ports plans to spend an additional $2.5 billion over the next decade.

Investments thus far have yielded modernized container terminals with ample capacity, the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet and a strong rail-served inland port network.

Construction is now underway on SC Ports’ Navy Base Intermodal Facility, a modern cargo yard in North Charleston that will by rail-served by CSX, Norfolk Southern and Palmetto Railways. Creating near-dock rail at the Port of Charleston will make South Carolina more competitive as an import gateway to the United States.

SC Ports is also developing an inner-harbor barge operation to support the Navy Base Intermodal Facility; it will transport cargo between container terminals via water.

The SC Legislature and Governor Henry McMaster allocated $550 million to build the rail yard and barge operation.

“With critical support from our state leaders, SC Ports is boldly investing in port infrastructure to ensure port-dependent businesses can thrive in South Carolina,” Melvin said.

Beyond the port, containers need to move fluidly on highways to reach their destinations — whether that may be a rail yard, manufacturing facility, import distribution center, retail store or a resident’s doorstep.

Critical infrastructure investments are happening around the state to support the state’s supply chains. The South Carolina Department of Transportation has significantly increased investments to the state’s transportation network, spending nearly $4 billion in construction contracts in 2022.

“We know how important it is to our thriving economy to ensure that goods can move efficiently across the state and region,” SC Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall. “With the support of the Governor and the General Assembly, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has made unprecedented investment in our state’s infrastructure system since 2017. This work includes more than 100 miles of interstate work either complete or underway, improving our critical freight corridors and making good on our promises to the people of South Carolina.”

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