Photo: Photo/SCPA/Walter Lagarenne

SCPA’s Leatherman Terminal readies for March 2021 opening

Leatherman Terminal
Photo/SCPA/Walter Lagarenne

South Carolina Ports expects the construction of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal to be completed by March 2021 enabling the facility to welcome its first ships.

The new facility is the country’s first container terminal to open since 2009.

In the $1 billion worth phase one, the terminal will add 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity to the Port of Charleston. At full build-out, the three-berth terminal will double S.C. Ports’ current capacity by adding 2.4 million TEUs of throughput capacity.

“This project has been a massive undertaking as it includes every discipline of engineering,” said Lucy Terza, SC Ports’ Engineering Project Manager. “There are so many moving parts working in concert ahead of the opening of Phase One.”

The SC Ports’ engineering team has worked with many contractors on the site, including HDR Inc., Banks Construction Co., Samet Corp., Cape Romain/McLean A Joint Venture and Cape Romain Contractors Inc.

“The teams behind the Leatherman Terminal have deployed innovative engineering and excellent on-site coordination throughout this entire project,” said Walter Lagarenne, SC Ports’ Director of Engineering and Permitting.

“Phase One construction is going to be completed in about 32 months, with the site work and the buildings being finished in about 18 months — quite a feat for a project of this magnitude.”

As disclosed, the critical component of Phase One — the 1,400-foot wharf — is complete.

It is designed to handle up to 19,000-TEU vessels with five of the tallest ship-to-shore cranes on the East Coast.

The cranes — with 169 feet of lift height above the wharf deck and a reach of 228 feet — are making the journey to Charleston now on two vessels. They are scheduled to arrive in late October.

Shanghai-based ZPMC fabricated the cranes. ZPMC USA will complete assembly and test the cranes upon arrival.

Twenty-five hybrid rubber-tired gantry cranes are also set to arrive later this year on three vessels, including four that will arrive with the ship-to-shore cranes. ZPMC is completing the fabrication and testing of the remaining 21 RTG cranes, preparing them to be shipped in mid-October and early November.

The overall site development of the Leatherman Terminal is approximately 75% complete. Construction of the refrigerated container racks, which will enable SC Ports to handle more refrigerated and frozen goods for customers, is 85% complete.

Many of the terminal’s buildings, such as the Terminal Operations Building and the Vessel Operations Building, have taken shape on the site. Work on buildings and canopies is about 75% complete overall, with completion slated for late December or early January.

SC Ports is in the final year of a six-year capital improvement plan, a culmination of years of strategic infrastructure planning and $2 billion in investments.

The Leatherman Terminal phase one complements efforts to modernize Wando Welch Terminal and deepen Charleston Harbor to 52 feet. These investments will enable SC Ports to handle four 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously in 2021.

September volumes

S.C. Ports Authority said its September volumes reflected the strongest year-over-year activity since the pandemic hit, showing a continued recovery and strength in containers, vehicles and inland port moves. 

SC Ports handled 195,101 TEUs at Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals — a record September for SC Ports and a slight increase year-over-year.

SC Ports handled 580,912 TEUs in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021. 

“September volumes outperformed expectations as we see an uptick in cargo flowing through our marine terminals and inland ports. We will continue to operate well-run terminals, as we have throughout the pandemic,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said.

Last month, the port authority also welcomed the record-setting 15, 072 TEU CMA CGM Brazil call on the Port of Charleston.