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Among Piers: Container record, terminal opening and COVID-19 vaccines

Berth announcement and more good news from Texas, South Carolina and Florida ports

The Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal has opened at the Port of Charleston in South Carolina. (Photo: English Purcell/SCPA)

Port Houston

Container moves at Port Houston in March climbed 20% year-over-year — and set a monthly record.

Port Houston handled 297,397 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March compared to 248,840 TEUs in the same month last year. The March figure is the highest monthly total ever, surpassing the record set in October by 1,187 TEUs. 

“We are seeing significant increases in cargo,” Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said in a statement this week. “As container demand surges across our docks, our terminals remain efficient and free of congestion to provide the best service levels to our customers.”

A winter storm that temporarily shut down the port in February has taken a toll on 2021 throughput. Container moves from Jan. 1 to March 31 totaled 751,199 TEUs, down 3% from 773,087 TEUs in the same period in 2020.

Port of Charleston

Cargo is moving at South Carolina Ports’ newly opened Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, the first container terminal to open in the United States since 2009.

The first ship, Hapag-Lloyd’s Yorktown Express, arrived at the Port of Charleston on April 9. 

The Leatherman Terminal sits along the Cooper River near Charleston Harbor. Completion of the first phase of the project adds 700,000 TEUs of throughput capacity to the Port of Charleston. 

The terminal was nearly 20 years in the making. The South Carolina Ports Authority filed permits in 2003 to develop a container terminal on the south end of the former Navy base in North Charleston. Site development and construction began in 2018. 

SCPA CEO Jim Newsome said the opening of the terminal comes at just the right time as U.S. container ports continue to handle unprecedented cargo volumes amid strong consumer demand. South Carolina Ports reported an all-time cargo record in March, with a 40% year-over-year increase in loaded imports.

“We have invested in the right infrastructure at the right time to handle growing cargo volumes and bigger ships, ensuring SC Ports remains a top 10 U.S. container port,” Newsome said. “The Leatherman Terminal adds a berth and more capacity to the Port of Charleston when it is most needed on the East Coast.”

The Leatherman Terminal strengthens the SCPA’s big-ship capabilities. Its 1,400-foot berth can handle a 20,000-TEU vessel. Five electric ship-to-shore cranes with 169 feet of lift height and 228 feet of outreach stand on the berth. The 47-acre container yard has 25 hybrid rubber-tired gantry cranes and eight empty container handlers to efficiently move cargo boxes around the terminal. Another 6-acre cargo area has six-story-tall refrigerated container racks.

At full buildout, the $2 billion Leatherman Terminal will have three berths and 286 acres, adding 2.4 million TEUs of annual throughput capacity, doubling current capacity. 

A port worker receives a COVID-19 vaccine at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Terminal last week. (Photo: JAXPORT)


Maritime workers in Jacksonville, Florida, had the opportunity to receive COVID-19 vaccinations last week at mobile clinics hosted by JAXPORT. 

The clinics also were open to the public through a partnership with the JAX Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit Agape Family Health.  

“From ensuring the uninterrupted flow of everyday goods — including food and medical supplies — to keeping northeast Florida’s economical engine running, port workers play a critically important role in our community,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “We are grateful to our partners at JAX Chamber and Agape for providing these vaccines to help safeguard our maritime community.”

JAXPORT also recently announced that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has appointed Bradley S. Talbert to its board of directors. 

Talbert is the president and CEO of Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville. He also serves on the boards of the JAX Chamber and Jacksonville Civic Council and is the 2020 and 2021 chair of the JAXUSA Partnership. 

“Brad’s leadership skills and business success, combined with his passion for giving back to the Jacksonville community, will be an asset to JAXPORT during this time of growth and opportunity for our port,” said JAXPORT Chairman Jamie Shelton.

At next Monday’s board meeting, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault will join JAXPORT leadership in hosting Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Joel A. Pizá-Batiz.

JAXPORT CEO Green and Pizá-Batiz will sign a memorandum of understanding to “affirm the vital maritime partnership between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico, with a focus on strengthening the partnership to create jobs and opportunity for both northeast Florida and Puerto Rico,” according to an announcement. 

The CEOs from Jacksonville’s three Puerto Rican ocean carriers — Crowley, TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge — are expected to be on hand for the signing.

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.