Conway’s comments were discussed on a Stifel Financial Corporation conference call during which Conway emphasized that state support of port funding needs will determine which ports dominate the industry in the era of post-Panamax ships.
“South Carolina absolutely gets it in terms of the importance of the Port of Charleston,” Conway said, “and has essentially written a blank check to do what is necessary and jump through whatever hurdles so that it continues to grow, retain and attract companies like Boeing and BMW.”
In 2012, the SC General Assembly set aside $300 million in a Harbor Deepening Reserve Fund to cover the entire estimated construction cost of the harbor deepening project in case of any shortfall in federal dollars. The harbor deepening project complements the SCPA’s $1.3-billion, 10-year capital plan for infrastructure improvements and new land-side capacity, including the Inland Port.
Conway highlighted the growth of ports in the Southeast, noting the SCPA’s success in balancing Charleston’s historic nature and tourism industry with the need for port growth by shifting expansion efforts to the interior of the state and developing an inland port in Greer.
“This is having a tremendous, positive impact on the Port of Charleston,” Conway said. “I think these inland ports are going to be a major game changer for who is most successful and who is not so successful in this first post-Panamax decade.”
The 91-acre Inland Port offers overnight rail service to and from the Port of Charleston with initial utilization of approximately 40,000 container moves annually with the potential to expand to 100,000 moves annually.
“I believe the Inland Port will be a major distribution hub located within 500 miles of 94 million consumers,” said SC Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome. “Reliable, cost-effective movement of freight is critical for serving the Southeast, which is the fastest growing region of the U.S., and the Inland Port positions us to do that.”
Conway also predicted that the Port of Charleston, in addition to the Port of New York and New Jersey, is the likely destination for post-Panamax ships who may only call on two ports per coast. The Port of Charleston is well-positioned to meet the needs of post-Panamax ships because of its proximity to the ocean, high efficiency and favorable weather.