Inland ports make waves in maritime transportation and industrial real estate

By: | Issue #656 | at 07:55 AM | Channel(s): Intermodal News  Rail  

The South Carolina Ports Authority broke ground on the site of a second inland port back in March. Inland Port Dillon is slated to open early next year to support growing intermodal cargo volumes between the Port of Charleston and markets throughout the Carolinas, the Southeast, and the Midwest.

Growth in the intermodal sector has driven the success of South Carolina’s first inland port, Inland Port Greer, which opened in November 2013, and handled a record 103,639 rail lifts last year.

Inland Port Greer, noted a recent report from Colliers International, the industrial real estate specialists, “is surrounded by 94 million consumers within 500 miles and also serves to extend the Port of Charleston’s intermodal reach by 212 miles.”

South Carolina’s industrial markets have been booming, coinciding with increased cargo flowing through its port and a large increase in manufacturing in the region, allowing Charleston to finish 2016 as one of the top-growth markets in the country for industrial real estate. Over three-million square feet of industrial space is under construction or planned, according to the Colliers report.

Not coincidentally, Inland Port Greer sits smack dab in the middle of a key emerging industrial market: the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson area. “With demand for new, larger fulfillment centers to handle the insatiable demand from e-commerce retailers, the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson market is becoming an industrial powerhouse with some dubbing it the Inland Empire of the East Coast,” said Colliers.

E-commerce has been the impetus behind regional distribution—the deployment of more warehouses in more locations to get products to consumers quickly—and “has been a boon to both seaport and inland port markets,” Colliers noted. “This is evidenced by the significant growth in loaded inbound container volumes in many ports along the East Coast, including the ports of Virginia, Savannah, and Charleston. This trend should continue for the foreseeable future.”

E-commerce sales, which increased by 15% in the U.S. in the first quarter of this year, “are forcing retailers and wholesalers into modern facilities and expanding their warehouse presences in secondary markets near inland ports, seaports, and large population centers.”

A different kind of inland port is represented by Memphis, the nation’s fourth-largest inland water port. Memphis has emerged as an international distribution hub and global supply chain center with a transportation infrastructure served by five Class I railroads, 490 trucking terminals, 11 highways, and the world’s largest cargo airport.

The International Port of Memphis, the second-largest inland port on the shallow draft portion of the Mississippi River, is key to feeding product to Memphis’ large rail network. Memphis is the third-largest rail center in the U.S., behind Chicago and St. Louis. “It’s also home to nine fully operational rail yards with a total container capacity of more than two-million annual lifts,” noted another Colliers report.

Major U.S. ports have posted year-over-year gains in inbound container volume for the first half of 2017, which, according to Colliers, is the most important driver for warehouse demand connected to seaports. “These factors are expected to continue to support robust fundamentals in core industrial markets,” Colliers concluded, “and expand demand in secondary markets near inland ports and large population centers.”

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American Journal of Transportation

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.