Container business up 10% at South Carolina Ports in 2012
The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) grew volume across business segments in calendar year 2012, closing a year marked by new carrier services, progress on the inland port in Greer and major advancements on Charleston's harbor deepening project.
In results announced today at the SCPA's regular meeting, container volume in Charleston was up 9.6 percent in calendar year 2012, with 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled at the port's two container terminals. Volume was up 13 percent in December compared to the same month last year, with 124,120 TEUs traded across the docks. Charleston also was the fastest-growing East Coast container port January through November, the latest month of volume data available from competing ports.
"These results are encouraging and a testament to the professionalism of our staff and the entire maritime community," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA.
"However, we have very ambitious goals and a $1.3-billion capital plan to implement in this decade, so we must continue to grow above the market."
Midway through the fiscal year that began July 1, container traffic has grown nearly 12 percent on the strength of loaded exports and the performance of new carrier services that have expanded Charleston's reach to foreign markets, such as Vietnam and Australia.
Newsome described that the SCPA is continuing its aggressive approach to cargo development across segments, including transloading operations of agricultural and forest products, growing refrigerated cargo and imported containers related to e-commerce retailers.
Breakbulk pier tonnage in Charleston and Georgetown made substantial gains in 2012. The Port of Charleston handled more than 1 million tons of non-containerized freight over the past 12 months, a nearly 26 percent increase from the previous year. Drivers of this growth included power-generation equipment and BMW exports at Columbus Street Terminal, as well as additional activity at Union Pier, such as steel billets, and at Veterans Terminal.
In Georgetown, activity for the calendar year was up 17 percent, with 532,472 pier tons handled in 2012. Bulk cement, petroleum coke and steel are top cargoes.
In the fiscal year to date (July through December), total breakbulk at the two ports was up ญญ22 percent.
Newsome highlighted progress on key initiatives, including the South Carolina Inland Port, which has been met with "incredible interest" from both existing and prospective port users, he stated. He also predicted that the SCPA's ocean carrier customers will continue to emphasize big ship deployments in 2013, and that Charleston is at a distinct advantage given the port's deep shipping channels and role in handling heavier shipments from the export-rich Southeast.
"As we continue the momentum on our next harbor deepening project, I expect further growth from our port in exports, especially as we further develop transloading facilities and our state's intermodal rail network," Newsome said.
New expediting measures through the Corps of Engineers as well as inclusion in the Administration's We Can't Wait initiative mean that the deepening of Charleston Harbor to 50 feet is slated for completion by 2019, or five years earlier than initially projected.