USA: Business Up at SCP in 2011, Charleston Deepening Advances
The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) closed calendar year 2011 with volume increases across business segments, concluding a year highlighted by progress on the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, record big ship traffic and the completion of major capital improvements.
In results announced at the SCPA’s regular meeting, December saw a slight increase in Charleston’s box volume, with a 2.4 percent uptick in container traffic. Charleston handled 109,472 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last month, compared to 106,866 TEUs in December 2010. Despite continued weakness in the economy, container volume for calendar year 2011 was up 1.2 percent from 2010.
Midway through the fiscal year that began July 1, container traffic is off slightly, with volume down less than one-third of one percent from the same six-month period last year.
“We are continuing to experience a flat economic environment here in the U.S.,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA. Industry analysts predict continued weakness in retail imports until spring while exports, particularly agricultural products, are expected to grow throughout 2012.
Breakbulk pier tonnage in Charleston and Georgetown was up 26.8 percent in December and up 54.9 percent in calendar 2011 over 2010 figures.
In the fiscal year to date (July through December), total breakbulk at the two ports was up 59.2 percent. Charleston’s non-container tonnage rose 21.5 percent in the first six months of the fiscal year (from 339,693 tons last year to 412,847 tons in FY12), while tonnage at the Port of Georgetown has grown more than threefold. Georgetown handled 268,147 pier tons in FY12 to date, up from 88,175 tons in the same period of FY11.
“Our sales team has made great strides to further diversify our business, including growing the non-container side,” said Newsome. “And we are continuing to be creative and aggressive to increase business opportunities in the Port of Georgetown.”
In addition, last year saw several advancements with the Charleston Post-45-Foot Harbor Deepening Project, currently in the feasibility phase. The Corps of Engineers and the SCPA are cost-sharing the feasibility study, with a commitment from the Corps’ South Atlantic Division to get to the construction phase as soon as practical. Meanwhile, big ship traffic in the port increased in 2011, including the first call by a 9,200-TEU ship in July. Each week, Charleston handles four post-Panamax vessel calls.
“There is no greater priority for our port than the harbor deepening project,” Newsome stated. “The Southeast region needs a true post-Panamax port to handle trade demand and the size of ships calling the East Coast in the years ahead, and Charleston is poised to be that port.”
Also at the meeting the SCPA Board approved projects totaling $5.2 million in capital improvements, including construction of a new, $3.05-million, 100,000-square-foot warehouse at Columbus Street Terminal to serve growing customer demand. This comes on the heels of major investments totaling $23 million to improve the terminal. Columbus Street Terminal serves the Port of Charleston’s non-container segment, including BMWs manufactured in the South Carolina Upstate.
The automaker announced that the facility located in Greer, S.C. will add the X4 production while increasing the plant’s capacity to 300,000 vehicles annually. About 70 percent of the plant’s production last year was exported.
About the South Carolina Ports Authority
The South Carolina State Ports Authority, established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $50 billion annually while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. An economic development engine for the state, port operations facilitate 260,800 jobs across South Carolina and nearly $45 billion in economic activity each year.
Dredging Today Staff, January 18, 2012; Image: port-of-charleston