Software Issue Causes South Carolina to Close Charleston and Inland Ports

South Carolina ports
Charleston and South Carolina's inland ports were closed due to an unspecified software problem (SC Ports)

Published May 20, 2024 4:27 PM by The Maritime Executive


An unspecified “software issue” was being blamed for the unusual move of suspending all cargo operations at the Port of Charleston as well as South Carolina inland ports on Monday, May 20. The South Carolina State Ports Authority said that it is working with an outside vendor to restore operations as quickly as possible. While calling it a "fluid situation" the authority said it expected to reopen the ports at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21, but has continued to delay saying there remain issues bringing the gate system back up. The next update is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

Media reports said the port authority identified the issue on Saturday. Initially, the port said on Sunday evening that it would be delaying the start of operations on Monday morning warning that no cargo would be picked up or dropped off until it was able to restore operations.

“Initial findings show that a software issue impacted a server,” the port said in an alert sent out Sunday evening. “This does not appear to be a cybersecurity issue.”

Port cybersecurity has become a hotly debated issue in the United States with the Biden administration reporting this spring that it directed the U.S. Coast Guard to increase its efforts and take steps with the ports on planning and increased security. It came in response to a contention that surfaced a year ago that highlighted China’s dominance in cargo cranes and related logistic software. There has been a move in the U.S. Congress to ban China’s logistics software and investigate the cargo cranes for potentially tracking cargo operations at the ports. As part of the administration’s initiative, ports were required to undertake a survey and report to the Coast Guard.

South Carolina ports initially said it expected to resume operations by 10:00 a.m. this morning but issued an update at 8:00 a.m. delaying the opening of the gates and cargo operations till noon. Two hours later they again delayed the opening pushing it back to 2:00 p.m.

“We do not anticipate systems being fully functional for the remainder of the day at all SC Ports marine terminals and inland ports,” the authority said in a later update. “We are reintroducing systems as they become available.”

The Port and Courier newspaper in Charleston reports that three containerships were already docked at the main terminal in Charleston and that the port authority told it they could continue working those ships. The reports said however that no cargo was being loaded to trucks and that the gates were closed.

Other containerships were holding off at anchor or not scheduled to arrive at the port until tomorrow. Similarly, the terminal for RoRos was not expecting its next arrival until late tomorrow. The port’s one cruise ship, Carnival Sunshine, was able to depart as scheduled on its cruise on Sunday evening.

The Port of Charleston reports at 52 feet, it is the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast. It handles approximately 215,000 TEU per month and last month saw a 40 percent increase in monthly vehicle volume to over 18,000 cars and trucks.  

It is the eighth-largest container port in the United States. In addition to the two marine cargo terminals and one vehicle terminal, the state has two rail-served inland ports.