The South Carolina Ports Authority handled 133,011 20-foot-equivalent units in September, partially driving a 3.3 percent increase in container volume in the first quarter of fiscal year 2014.
From July through September, the Port of Charleston moved 413,818 TEUs, including exports of 216,680 TEUs, up 4 percent year-over-year.
“Cargo growth is a top priority for the SC Ports Authority, and we increased volumes on ships that validate our deep-water strategy during the first quarter, meeting an extremely aggressive growth goal for the period,” said Bill Stern, SCPA board chairman, in a written statement.
SCPA facilities received calls from 459 ships in the quarter, increasing 4.8 percent over plan. The SCPA currently has seven post-Panamax ship calls per week.
Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO, commented: “The maritime industry is experiencing a great deal of change. There is concern among ocean carriers about how much demand there will be, but one thing is for certain — 13,000-TEU ships will be calling on the East Coast as soon as the Bayonne Bridge is raised.”
Separately, the SCPA’s board of directors has approved $2.7 million in funding to facilitate completion of the South Carolina Inland Port in Greer, S.C., to cover unforeseen weather and typography challenges from site construction. The board originally approved $29.1 million for the intermodal terminal in July, as part of its fiscal year 2014 financial plan.
The inland port, which offers overnight rail service via Norfolk Southern Railway to and from the Port of Charleston, is now open, with SCPA staff on-site testing information technology systems and handling other preliminary operational activities, according to the port authority. Regular cargo activity is expected to begin this week, with construction ongoing at the site through the end of the year.
“In the long term, the inland port will be catalyst for redefining how distribution is done in South Carolina and surrounding areas,” Newsome said. “We have to focus on innovative solutions to logistics challenges. I think we’ll look back on this as an extremely good investment.”
Newsome previously mentioned that he saw opportunities for attracting a variety of importers and exporters to the 91-acre site, with plans to target transloading of agricultural products into marine containers and e-commerce fulfillment in particular. His faith in the inland port is part of an evolving trend, as momentum appears to be accelerating at inland ports across the nation.
Additionally, the SCPA board authorized preliminary engineering work for structural wharf repairs and upgrades to the Wando Welch Terminal, the port’s largest terminal.
“The ships that called on the Port of Charleston in the 1970s when the Wando Welch Terminal was designed and constructed are no longer the ships of today,” Stern explained. “We’re modernizing our facilities for the future. With bigger ships and deeper water, we’re working to best utilize the land assets we have to continue to grow our port.”