South Carolina Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome focused on growth, investment and harbor deepening in his message to nearly 700 maritime and business leaders at the State of the Port, an annual event hosted by the Propeller Club of Charleston.
In his fifth address since joining the state’s public port system, Newsome highlighted key industry trends and the impacts of a growing port on the state’s and region’s economy.
The Port of Charleston is a top-10 U.S. container port that grew 9% in FY2013, well above the U.S. port market. Above-market growth for the ensuing years is a critical part of the port’s strategy.
Newsome noted that the Southeast is a growing region for both consumption and manufacturing. This fact, combined with the deployment of new Panamax container ships to the U.S. East Coast, requires top-10 container ports to invest in terminal facilities, harbor deepening and related road and rail logistics capabilities to maintain and enhance their competitiveness.
“The growth of exporting and the formation of mega-alliances that will feature the deployment of large container ships on the East Coast mean that deepened harbors are critical for supporting commerce in the Southeast region,” Newsome said. “The Southeast needs a port of 50 feet or deeper to support this growth, and Charleston is well-positioned thanks to its post-45 foot deepening project.”
Newsome said the state of South Carolina is unified in its commitment to see Charleston Harbor deepened, noting that 20,000 companies in two dozen states rely on our harbor for access to overseas production and markets.
“The port has further enhanced the logistics infrastructure of the state and the Southeast by building the South Carolina Inland Port in Greer,” he said. “The Inland Port is served by overnight rail service provided by the Norfolk Southern Railroad and creates a new rail origin and destination in the Southeast. With its location within 500 miles of nearly 100 million consumers, it is poised to create a significant distribution hub to foster the growth of commerce in the upstate of South Carolina.”
Newsome cited two key terminal projects in his remarks. The building of a new container terminal at the former Navy Base in Charleston is essential, Newsome said, and is the only permitted new container terminal on the U.S. East Coast. He discussed the joint venture terminal project in Jasper County as critical for future growth once the need for a deeper harbor is realized. Newsome also noted the need to restore Georgetown Harbor to its authorized depth of 27 feet.
“Ports are long-cycle businesses requiring great vision and planning,” Newsome said. “Our port system is the major strategic asset for the state in the current era of global sourcing and manufacturing.”
SCPA Board Chairman Bill Stern recognized Newsome for his leadership since he joined the organization in 2009. “2014 was another great fiscal year for the Ports Authority. We grew at 9 percent while the rest of the industry averaged 2 percent growth. On behalf of the Board, I applaud Jim for his vision and leadership of our Ports.”
“It’s no secret that South Carolina’s ports are a major economic development engine for our state, representing $45 billion in annual economic activity and helping our unemployment rate hit a 5 year low,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “The growth of our ports means more jobs and their continued growth will help us add to the over 39,000 new jobs and over $9.6 billion in new investment we have brought to South Carolina. Strengthening our ports is a team effort and thanks to our federal delegation we saw the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act - an incredibly positive step forward for our state, our ports and for job creation. Including the opening of the Inland Port in Greer, the progress we have made over the past year has been tremendous and we have never been more confident that we will see Charleston deepened to 50 feet, Georgetown revitalized with new life, and a port in Jasper approved and built.”
“I am pleased with the progress the SC Ports Authority has made over the last year,” said Senator Larry Grooms, Chairman of the S.C. Review and Oversight Commission on the State Ports Authority. “Cargo volume is growing well above the market. Infrastructure projects like harbor deepening and the inland port, which extends the port’s reach over 200 miles inland, will solidify their footing as the region’s primary port in the future.”