Container shipping volume through the Port of Charleston increased nearly 12 percent in the first three quarters of the fiscal year, and the state’s breakbulk tonnage increased 48 percent, even as the pace of volume gains has slowed.
In the July to March period, container traffic increased 11.6 percent to 1,033,062 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up from 925,837 TEUs in the same period last year. March volume alone was 120,265 TEUs, up 5.7 percent from March 2010.
“While the rate of growth is slowing from last year’s initial volume recovery, we are still moving in the right direction,” said Jim Newsome, President & CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA). “New distribution and manufacturing investments in the state and across the region, as well as export strength, will be felt in the coming months.”
Vessel calls were also up for the nine-month period, rising 11 percent to 1,271 ships.
At the Ports of Charleston and Georgetown, breakbulk cargo, including automobiles, project cargo, heavy lift shipments, were up 48 percent to 754,000 tons from 511,000 tons in the first three quarters of 2011. A $21-million investment at Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal is increasing the port’s breakbulk cargo-handling capacity.
“Through Columbus Street Terminal, the Port of Charleston now offers a ro-ro, heavy lift and project cargo terminal that rivals the best out there,” said Newsome. “With on-dock rail, excellent oversize clearances inland, substantial lay-down areas and mobile lifting capacity up to 500 tons, Charleston offers tremendous capabilities.”
At its regularly monthly meeting today, the SCSPA Board approved engineering services related to the relocation, realignment and removal of container cranes at Columbus Street and Wando Welch terminals. Shaw GBB will perform the services at a cost of $277,518.
The entire project, estimated at nearly $5 million, is driven by increasing arrivals of ships too large for the Panama Canal. Every week, Charleston receives four post-Panamax ships actually drafting up to 48 feet.
The SCSPA Board also approved security, entrance and roadway improvements at Veterans Terminal at a cost of $522,000. The project will be covered primarily by federal port security grant funding.