In mid-October, the South Carolina Ports Authority broke ground on the Navy Base Intermodal Facility which will provide near-dock rail and an inner-harbor barge operation to the Port of Charleston.
The Navy Base Intermodal Facility sits about one mile from Leatherman Terminal. Containers will be moved to and from the Leatherman Terminal on a dedicated road. An inner-harbor barge operation will move containers between the Wando Welch and Leatherman terminals.
With 80,000 feet of rail track and capacity for one-million rail lifts in its first phase, the facility will be used by the Class I railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern as well as the short line Palmetto Railways.
“This resolves the last remaining competitive disadvantage we have as a major East Coast container port,” said Barbara Melvin, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority. “The inner-harbor barge operation and innovative rail yard will add critical capacity.” As more cargo moves by rail, added Patrick McCrory, CEO of Palmetto Railways, “The Navy Base Intermodal Facility will add more fluidity and capacity to our supply chain.” The projects are slated to open in July 2025.
SC Ports is already well-known for its successful intermodal operations, having developed rail-served inland ports in Greer and Dillon. Inland Port Dillon had a record fiscal year 2023, handling 39,143 rail moves, an impressive 50% increase from the year prior. Inland Port Greer handled 146,813 rail moves, down about 3% year over year.
Both inland ports handled record June volumes, and that trend continued into the new fiscal year, which began on July 1. Inland Port Greer, located in Upstate South Carolina between the Charlotte and Atlanta markets, achieved an all-time record month in August, handling 16,857 rail moves, for a 52% increase year over year. Inland Port Dillon, which sits along the North Carolina border and is served by CSX, also had a strong month in August, with 3,439 rail moves, an 83% increase from the year before.
The first phase of an expansion of Inland Port Greer was completed late last year, which involved building an additional rail processing track and two rail storage tracks within the terminal. The addition of 8,000 feet of new rail is expected to meet cargo demands through 2040. The next phase of expansion involves expanding the container yard by 15 acres to handle 50% more cargo. The expansion also involves doubling the size of the existing chassis yard capacity and building new facilities for heavy lift maintenance and terminal operations. The full project is slated for completion in the winter of 2024.
In fiscal year 2023, SC Ports handled 2.6 million TEUs and 1.4 million pier containers, down about 10% from fiscal year 2022 levels, but up 1% from the more typical 2021. June’s container results were up by over 3% year over year, July showed a 12% increase over June and a 3% increase year over year. The retail, advanced manufacturing, automotive, and cold storage sectors, noted Melvin, continue to drive growth at the Port of Charleston.