Despite a widespread decline in global shipping, in fiscal year 2009 the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) handled 1.37 million 20-foot equivalent container units, secured several new major business accounts and is primed to take advantage of the deepest harbor in the US Southeast.
“The global economic situation has been incredibly tough on port communities across the world, including ours,” said David J. Posek, chairman of the SCSPA. “We should be proud that the people of South Carolina’s ports have banded together to better serve our existing customers, while at the same time attracting new business.”
Ocean carriers have idled 10% of the world’s shipping fleet amid the recession, but the shuffling and juggling of container services today should play to Charleston’s advantages, said the SCSPA’s interim president & CEO, John F. Hassell III.
“Fewer, larger ships will handle world trade in the years to come,” said Hassell. “With the deepest shipping channels in the region, Charleston is well positioned for this development, as well as for the expanded Panama Canal in 2014. South Carolina is the place to do business now, and in the future.”
In addition, Hassell noted several accomplishments over the past fiscal year, such as:
- Extending through 2017 a contract with Mediterranean Shipping Company for the Port of Charleston
- Bringing National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia to Charleston with a new regular service for containers, breakbulk and roll-on/roll-off cargo
- Finalizing a two-year contract extension with the Grand Alliance consortium
- Adding a new Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics service between the US East Coast and North Europe
- Entering a new 20-year contract in the Port of Georgetown for Carolina-Pacific to export wood briquettes to North Europe, starting this fall
- Signing a new deal with Celebrity Cruises for port-of-call and embarkations through 2011
- Increasing refrigerated and container capacity at the Wando Welch Terminal
- Awarding a $55-million construction contract for new container terminal work
- Starting a strategic planning process that will be completed in the coming weeks
- Implementing successfully the new federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) for thousands of longshoremen, truckers and other working on the docks
- Advancing environmental initiatives, including $5.3 million in diesel emissions reduction projects, an Environmental Management System and the first port air emissions inventory in the Southeast
- Restructuring and adding staff to the marketing & sales functions
- Completing customer relations training for all SCSPA employees
Also during the past year, the search for a new president and chief executive officer concluded with the hiring of James I. (Jim) Newsome III as the fifth leader in the SCSPA’s history. Mr. Newsome begins on September 1 after a more than 30-year shipping industry career, most recently as president of Hapag-Lloyd (America), Inc., part of the world’s fifth-largest ocean shipping company.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the SCSPA handled 1.37 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) at its three container terminals in the Port of Charleston, down 19% from 1.69 million TEU in FY2008.
Breakbulk volume in Charleston was down 17%, with 549,008 pier tons handled in FY2009 versus 660,096 pier tons in the previous year.
The Port of Georgetown’s volume was up 3% over last year to 286,254 tons of cargo. In addition to the new renewable energy project in Georgetown, several additional contracts could bring several million tons of new cargo through the port.
The SCSPA continued to post strong financial results, with an operating margin approaching 19%. Operating revenues were off 18% to $136.2 million, while operating expenses were flat at $111 million, and earnings decreased by 53% to $25.7 million.