In his fourth State-of-the-Port Address since taking the helm of the state’s public port system in 2009, the leader of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) highlighted business growth and major progress on key initiatives such as Charleston’s harbor deepening project and the inland port during the Propeller Club of Charleston’s annual event.
Speaking to a record crowd of nearly 600 local maritime and business leaders gathered for the luncheon, SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome underscored the long-term significance of Charleston’s role as a port city.
“Charleston has prospered because it is surrounded by water,” Newsome said. “It is very clear today, in the era of global manufacturing and global sourcing, a state with a great port will prosper disproportionately and become a visible player in the global marketplace.”
Newsome highlighted recent achievements in the port’s business, which saw its strongest quarter (July-September) for container volume in four years, while non-container tonnage at both Charleston and Georgetown also has been on the rise. This could not be possible without the re-establishment of the SCPA’s global brand and an aggressive sales posture.
“The port business is not a spectator sport, and we are very active in the market, wherever it is in the world,” he stated. He also cited broad support from leaders such as the state’s Congressional delegation, Governor Haley and her Cabinet, the state Legislature and the area’s mayors as critical to the port’s success.
The most prevalent trend in the industry to impact Charleston, he shared, is the development of very large containerships, defined as being larger than 7,500 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of capacity. The Port of Charleston is already handling ships of this size and larger, with the biggest vessels using the tides to sail in and out fully loaded with up to 48 feet of draft.
For ports, “the ability to grow will be governed by the achievement of untidally restricted deepwater harbors and supporting inland infrastructure to reach markets efficiently,” Newsome said. To support the expected surge of post-Panamax ship traffic in coming years, a post-45-foot deepening project is underway in Charleston. Progress on that project over the past year has been “truly remarkable,” according to Newsome.
“Today, we are part of President Obama’s We Can’t Wait initiative and a top-five harbor in terms of prioritization,” he said. And despite future funding uncertainty for projects on a federal level, Newsome praised the South Carolina Legislature, which “has acted resolutely to put the entire funding of $300 million aside as a clear message that we cannot wait to have our harbor deepened.”
In addition to harbor deepening, Newsome highlighted the progress on the SCPA’s inland port project with Norfolk Southern in Greer, SC, which was initiated with an engineering study in July of this year. Additionally, the SCPA is working collaboratively with CSX on rail initiatives to boost the port’s business.
“It is vital that both Class One railroads serving the East Coast see Charleston as a strategically important part of their expansion,” Newsome stated.
Newsome emphasized the SCPA’s role in generating economic opportunity since the organization’s founding in 1942. “Our port is the major economic development engine for our state, as it always has been in history and will always be in the future. And, economic development is about jobs,” Newsome said. “Growth is the operative word in being a productive component in the job creation engine.”
The success of the port over the foreseeable future, he stated, will be because of collaborative efforts between all facets of the maritime community, whether public or private sector.
“Cooperation is key, and we have no time to waste,” he emphasized. “It is incumbent to be aggressive in courting new business, provide competitive services, and most importantly, work together for the greater good of our port, our industry, and our state.”
Despite the work to be done, Newsome reiterated his optimism for the future, given the many advantages of the Port of Charleston as well as the talent of the local maritime community.
“As I said to you when we first met, and I, more than ever, believe this to be the case today – our best years in this port are ahead of us, not behind us.”
Statements from South Carolina Leaders:
“While we still have a long way to go, great strides have been made to deepen the Charleston Harbor. Our efforts here at home have generated a national discussion about the need to modernize our nation’s port infrastructure, and because of that Charleston is now a national priority. As a result of Jim Newsome and the Board’s leadership, as well as the expert support of his professional staff, the Port of Charleston is going through a renaissance that will secure its position as the Crown Jewel of South Carolina’s economy and one of the most modern and vibrant ports in the United States. This has been made possible through dogged determination and teamwork at all levels of government and private sector. Today, the State of the Port has never been better and I look forward to continuing to work with Jim and his team to grow our Port.”
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham
“The future of our Port is incredibly bright. With new routes around the world, the Navy base terminal and the forward-thinking inland port on the horizon, Charleston has incredible momentum heading into the coming post-Panamax era. Strong leadership from Jim Newsome has positioned our port for long-term economic success, and our state will be better served for it.”
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint
“Jim Newsome understands the vital role our ports play in South Carolina’s economy. He has a vision for the future, and it has been my pleasure to work with him to ensure that a major piece of that vision – the deepening of the Charleston Harbor – is expedited. His leadership is important to the continued and growing success of our ports, and I look forward to working with him to reach that goal.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn
“The South Carolina Ports Authority, under the leadership of Jim Newsome, has progressed substantially over the past three years and continues to be a driving factor behind South Carolina’s economy. I remain committed to working with Jim and the rest of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation to ensure that the Charleston Port continues on its path to success.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson
“With the Panama Canal expansion fast upon us, it is imperative that the State Ports Authority is led by someone with both a passion for South Carolina and a strong vision for our future. Thankfully over the past three years Jim Newsome has proven to be that leader. The growth we’ve seen over the past few years is only a hint of what’s to come, and I look forward to working with Jim as we welcome more and more business to South Carolina.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Scott
“The Port of Charleston is a vital partner to the Upstate of South Carolina. Our companies do business through the port and maintain a strong working relationship. This partnership is evident with the placing of the inland port in Greer. We look forward to the growth and thank Mr. Newsome for his vision on this endeavor.”
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy
“We’ve been able to announce more than 28,000 jobs since taking office due, in no small part, to our ports. Charleston harbor is second to none. From day one we said we would make sure our dredging project happens, and that Charleston will have the most vibrant deep water port on the east coast. We couldn’t be more excited about the progress our state has made over the last year and the consensus among leaders in South Carolina and Washington that it’s time to deepen Charleston – it’s a huge win for our economy and state as a whole – and we will continue working with Washington to make this process smoother, and ultimately, faster. But what’s more is that we’re committed to the strengthening and success of all of our ports – our ports are vital parts of our state’s economic development engine, and our work won’t be finished until Charleston, Georgetown and Jasper are thriving.”
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
“Jim Newsome is one of the hardest working people I know. He’s put together a top-notch team and the turnaround they’ve made is inspiring. Success breeds success and it’s clear that South Carolina’s ports have the momentum. We have high expectations for Jim and his team and they continue to deliver for customers and the people of South Carolina.”
S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms, Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee & Review and Oversight Committee on the Ports Authority
“I have witnessed the changes the port has undergone during Jim Newsome’s tenure and I am confident now more than ever that our port system is headed in the right direction. I am pleased to see the progress being made on multiple fronts – cargo growth, harbor deepening, the inland port, the Navy Base terminal – and how these initiatives will impact on our state and our region.“
S.C. Rep. Jim Merrill, Vice Chairman, Review and Oversight Commission on the Ports Authority
“This year’s State-of-the-Port Address marks a time to pause and reflect on the growth the Port has experienced over the last three years under Jim Newsome’s leadership. I look forward to watching this momentum continue to grow in the coming years and the positive impact it will have on our city.”
City of Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.
Press Release, December 11, 2012