USA: Port of Charleston Moves in Right Direction

The Port of Charleston was the fastest-growing top 10 U.S. container port for the first six months of 2012. Charleston container volume grew 7.4 percent from January to June this calendar year, edging out other top 10 ports on both the U.S. East and West coasts.

Additionally, in fiscal year end results announced at yesterday’s regular Board meeting, South Carolina’s public seaport system grew volumes across all business segments during FY 2012, capping a year marked by new shipping services, the addition of transloading facilities and a rail drayage program, and significant progress on Charleston’s Harbor Deepening Project.

Container business at the Port of Charleston was up 3.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, with 1.43 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled last fiscal year. Representing further recovery in trade activity following the global recession, the fourth quarter of FY12 (April-June) was the Port of Charleston’s highest quarter for container volume in more than three years.

“With volumes rebounding, we’ll continue our aggressive business development posture highlighting Charleston’s deep water advantage relative to other ports in the region,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA).We are laser focused on attracting new business, adding shipping services and growing our cargo base, particularly exports that require deep water facilities.”

Demonstrating the SCPA’s focus on diversifying its cargo business, breakbulk volumes surged to a more than 42 percent gain from the previous fiscal year, with 1.4 million pier tons recorded at South Carolina’s public port facilities in FY12. In the Port of Charleston, the SCPA handled 863,471 pier tons of non-containerized cargo last fiscal year, a nearly 21 percent increase from the previous year. Major improvements to Columbus Street Terminal completed last year have boosted the SCPA’s breakbulk handling of vehicles, heavy equipment, oversized/overweight and traditional breakbulk commodities.

In the Port of Georgetown, business at the dock nearly doubled last year. In fiscal year 2012, Georgetown handled 548,919 pier tons of cargo, with major commodities including bulk cement and petroleum coke.

Newsome also highlighted the significant progress made on the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project during the past fiscal year. The project was included for the first time in the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2013 and was one of seven priority infrastructure projects included for expediting in the Administration’s “We Can’t Wait” initiative. This expediting, along with new streamlining measures from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, means that the project could be completed by 2019, or five years earlier than initially announced.

Charleston’s Harbor Deepening Project got another major boost when the South Carolina General Assembly moved to fully fund the project’s construction phase by setting aside the entire $300 million estimated cost. This allocation would not only cover the state’s 60 percent share, or $180 million, of the cost, but it would also fund the federal share of deepening Charleston Harbor to 50 feet or greater, if needed.

In addition, Newsome noted several key accomplishments from FY12, including:

– Adding four new shipping services with five weekly calls in the Port of Charleston, including a first-ever direct service to Vietnam and an Australia service.

– Bringing on new transload infrastructure and business for retail and agricultural products.

– Incorporating a rail drayage program to improve the efficiency of cargo movement in the area. The program matches loads of containers to and from the intermodal rail yards in North Charleston.

– Laying the preliminary ground work on the development of an inland port in Greer, SC. The facility is expected to convert as many as 50,000 truck trips on I-26 into rail moves.

– Boosting the port’s non-container handling capabilities by partnering with Charleston Heavy Lift to provide heavy lift services.

July Business Results

In July, the Port of Charleston handled 131,767 TEUs, a 16 percent increase from the same month last year and a nearly seven percent gain from June.

We are beginning to see the additional volume from new shipping services in our port, which are performing very well,” said Newsome.

Other Board Action

In other action, the SCPA Board approved a resolution authorizing the president and CEO to take any actions needed to bring to fruition the South Carolina Inland Port in Greer, SC at a cost of up to $25 million. The project was included in the budget for the current fiscal year.

The Board also approved two change orders to existing contracts to Jay Cashman and HITT Contracting, Inc. for work that is under way to support cargo operations in the Port of Charleston.

Jim Newsome also announced that Parsons Brinckerhoff has been selected as the SCPA’s primary engineering firm. The global engineering firm has more than 150 offices on five continents and currently provides project management and oversight on the construction of the Navy Base Terminal in North Charleston.


Dredging Today Staff, August 22, 2012