Milestone highlights strong ties between South Carolina, BMW port
South Carolina recently celebrated the one millionth BMW shipped through the Port of Charleston, demonstrating the strength of a relationship that began in 1992 when the automaker broke ground in the state on its first US production facility.
“No one ever imagined that we’d reach this level of volume this quickly,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority. “BMW’s success has far out-paced even our wildest expectations.”
BMW first began shipping cars through Charleston in June 1994, when 65 imports crossed the docks. The first exports started rolling in March 1995 with 11 cars. By contrast, in August 2005, BMW’s imports and exports totaled nearly 16,000 vehicles. On an average day, BMW ships more than 400 vehicles through the port.
BMW exports South Carolina-assembled X5 sports activity vehicles and Z4 roadsters through Charleston BMW also imports 3-, 5-, 6-, 7-series and MINI vehicles through the port for distribution to 22 southern and central states. Last fall, the Ports Authority and BMW signed a new 10-year agreement for vehicle handling.
“This milestone symbolizes the strategic partnership between BMW and the Port of Charleston,” said Bob Nitto, vice president for corporate affairs at BMW Manufacturing Co.
Since BMW’s location in Spartanburg County in South Carolina’s Upstate, 31 of its 40 South Carolina suppliers have established new operations in the state. Development of this new automotive cluster has meant thousands of better, higher paying jobs.
South Carolina continues to distinguish itself in the auto industry with Clemson University’s development of the International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR), a research park in Greenville.
“BMW’s positive impact ripples from its plant in Spartanburg County, to Charleston and to all corners of our state,” Groseclose said.
Other attendees at the event included former Ports Authority Chairman Robert V. Royall and US Congressman Henry Brown. Royall, who also served as SC Secretary of Commerce and US Ambassador to Tanzania, worked under Gov. Carroll Campbell in the effort to land BMW.
The Ports Authority acquired property where BMW is located today and assisted with efforts to prepare the site. BMW’s South Carolina facility was the fastest ground-breaking to production in modern US automotive history.
Immediately following the ceremony at the Union Pier Terminal, the Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel ELEKTRA, a recently lengthened roll-on roll-of ship, sailed from Charleston to carry the one millionth vehicle, and several hundred others, to Bremerhaven, Germany.
“While this is an important milestone, South Carolina should see this as the first chapter of a long, fruitful relationship,” Groseclose said. “We look forward to our shared future with BMW.”
Groseclose stressed the Ports Authority’s commitment to meeting BMW’s near-term and long-term growth needs through the necessary infrastructure investments. “Rest assured that South Carolina is ready to grow with you.”
Union Pier Terminal has been vastly improved over the years to handle the rapidly growing business. Most recently, more than $3 million in improvements were made to handle both BMW’s growth and the needs of the surrounding community.
In addition to its finished vehicles, BMW and its suppliers ship more than 200 containers a week through the Port of Charleston to keep the plant running.
To handle this growth and the growth of other existing customers, the Ports Authority is moving ahead with plans to build a new three-berth, 280-acre marine terminal on the former Charleston Naval Complex. Permits for the new $545-million facility are expected by August 2006.