The Port of Charleston’s Union Pier Terminal is bustling with break-bulk cargo. Driven primarily by steel shipments, activity on the dock and in the facility’s two largest warehouses has grown substantially in recent months.
In the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year (May-June), the terminal handled 50,079 tons of non-containerized freight, predominantly steel wire rod and coils, much of which is utilized in tire production, and steel billets. This was an 85 percent jump from the preceding nine months of the fiscal year combined, during which the terminal handled 27,109 tons of cargo.
Paul McClintock, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), credits the agency’s focus on recruiting non-container accounts as well as a new, monthly breakbulk service that was announced in the spring.
“We’ve been aggressive in recruiting breakbulk in an ongoing effort to diversify the port’s business,” McClintock said. “We’re exporting a large amount of steel used in construction. On the import side, we are seeing steel wire rod and coils used to manufacture tires, which is a large and growing segment in the state.”
South Carolina ranks first in the nation for tire exporting. With Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental Tire all locating to or expanding in South Carolina, tire manufacturing is one of the largest industrial sector employers in South Carolina. These three companies employ more than 12,000 in the state.
“At Union Pier, we have more than 290,000 square feet of warehouse storage space to handle weather-sensitive cargo, like steel wire rod and coils and paper, as well as large lay-down areas suitable for traditional breakbulk,” McClintock said.
Since repositioning the port’s major ro-ro accounts to Columbus Street Terminal in March 2011, Union Pier offers additional space for non-containerized accounts. The SCPA invested nearly $25 million to convert Columbus Street Terminal from a container facility to a premier, vehicle-handling and multi-use facility.
Earlier this year, Grieg Star Shipping selected Charleston for its monthly service, which calls Union Pier Terminal. Since March, the terminal has handled a total of 14 cargo vessels.
Charleston’s non-container facilities handled 1.12 million tons of bulk and breakbulk cargo in fiscal year 2013, a 30 percent jump from the previous year. The SCPA projects an approximately 10 percent increase in breakbulk and non-containerized cargo at the Port of Charleston during the next 12 months.