South Carolina Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome focused on growth and modernization at the yesterday’s State of the Port, an annual event hosted by the Propeller Club of Charleston.
In his sixth address since joining the SCPA, Newsome discussed the port’s strategy for maintaining the strong volume gains seen in recent years and the investments underway to prepare new and existing facilities for the changing needs of the shipping industry.
The SCPA boasted 8 percent volume increases in FY2014, with 9 percent growth the previous fiscal year. The Port of Charleston ranked ninth in the country for 2013 cargo volumes measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), with growth trending above the market average year over year.
“Diversity of cargo across market segments, including container, breakbulk and cruise, contributed to our strong volume gains,” Newsome said. “Over the next several years, the upgrades planned for existing SCPA terminals and new capacity offered by the Navy Base terminal will ensure our facilities are capable of attracting and retaining cargo in each of these key business areas, which are important to the port’s long-term success.”
Newsome said above-market growth will continue to be a key priority for the port. Main drivers of volume gains in recent years include expansion of discretionary cargo, including plastics and agriculture products; utilization of project cargo capabilities; recruitment of indigenous cargo, routed through Charleston for lowest inland transportation costs; and maximization of the port’s intermodal rail capabilities and a deepwater harbor.
In addition to construction of the Navy Base new container terminal, Newsome cited long-range plans with Georgia Ports Authority to construct a terminal in Jasper County, given market demand and harbor depth. He also noted that in spite of the need to restore the Port of Georgetown to an authorized depth of 27 feet, its volumes grew nearly 12 percent in fiscal year 2014.
SCPA’s projects and capital investments reflect the changing fundamentals in the shipping industry and necessity to accommodate the deployment of post-Panamax vessels to the East Coast.
“SCPA is well-positioned to meet and exceed the industry’s requirements for a modern port,” Newsome said. “With the harbor deepening project, Charleston will remain the deepest harbor in the Southeast and offer post-Panamax vessels the opportunity to call on our terminals without tidal restrictions by late 2018. The movement of cargo from our capable, productive facilities to its inland destination is increasingly cost-competitive with dual rail service and the Inland Port.”
Newsome noted that while the Southeast is a growing region for both consumption and manufacturing, it is also a highly competitive market served by several ports. With overall market growth slower this decade than last, all ports are challenged by the significant investment required to construct and modernize facilities.
“SCPA’s mission is to be the preferred port in the U.S. for our carrier and cargo clients,” Newsome said. “Our aggressive plan ensures that we are well poised for the future in our industry and as an economic driver and catalyst for business development in South Carolina and across the Southeast. Our best years are ahead.”
“The port’s year-over-year volume growth speaks to the leadership and vision of Jim and his team,” said SCPA Board Chairman Bill Stern. “There is no doubt that the future for our state port system is bright.”
Please click here to view Jim Newsome’s State of the Port presentation.