South Carolina State Ports Authority

South Carolina State Ports Authority

President and chief executive

If U.S. seaports hope to handle the volume expected over the next decade, marine terminal operators and their customers must be prepared to modify the way they do business. Economic, geographic, environmental and social factors will necessitate change in our industry.

The land available for port expansion in our country is dwindling. Population growth along our coast continues to strain coastal infrastructure and resources. Environmental pressure groups have become more intense, organized and successful. Zoning has limited growth of the necessary off-terminal support businesses, such as container storage yards.

Virtually every port community is facing one or more of these challenges. The effect will be a strain on our nation's container port capacity. Fortunately, there's plenty of room for improvement. I wrote on this same subject last year and, while the external pressures have become greater, our industry has made little progress toward change.

We can better utilize existing port assets by embracing new technology, aggressive management, extended operating hours and streamlined processes. We have to keep our gates open more hours, reduce cargo dwell time, remove excess empty containers and chassis from our terminals, alleviate pressure on our highway infrastructure at peak hours and further automate the flow of information as well as cargo.

It is certainly possible to handle more cargo through the same space, in less time, while adding value. But to achieve real change requires the participation of the entire transportation chain, including all service providers and the ultimate shippers or consignees. In fact, it is the importer or exporter that can affect the most productive dialogue for change.