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Container boom continued in August for South Carolina ports

Port of Charleston terminals’ TEU volume rose 12% year-over-year

Containers at a South Carolina Ports Authority complex. (Photo: SCPA/English Purcell)

Container volumes didn’t back down in August, with volumes 12% higher at the Port of Charleston than they were a year ago, the South Carolina Ports Authority said Thursday.

At the Port of Charleston’s three terminals — the Wando Welch Terminal, the North Charleston Terminal and the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal — August volumes were 234,688 twenty-foot equivalent units, a 12% gain over August 2020. Year-to-date volumes are also 24% higher than the same period last year.

SCPA’s handling of pier containers rose 12% year-over-year to 130,729, while year-to-date volumes were up by 24% to 267,887 pier containers. Pier containers account for boxes of any size, it said.

Import containers climbed 18% year-over-year in August to 114,671 “as consumers spend more on retail goods than services during the pandemic,” SCPA said. 

Meanwhile, the Columbus Street Terminal handled 26,044 vehicles in August, which is higher than the 15,450 vehicles handled in July and slightly under the 26,214 vehicles handled in August 2020.

Inland port activity “remained steady” in August, with Inland Port Greer handling 11,902 rail lifts and Inland Port Dillon handling 2,635 rail moves. Their total of 14,537 is higher than July’s total of 13,976 but down from August 2020’s total of 16,949.

“SC Ports planned well for this growth by investing more than $2 billion in port infrastructure in recent years to handle rising cargo volumes and retail imports,” SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “Phase one of Leatherman Terminal adds 700,000 TEUs of capacity and an additional berth to the East Coast port market, and the three-berth Wando Welch Terminal works mega container ships every day.”

But Newsome also noted the challenges that lay ahead for the remainder of 2021.

“Shippers and retailers can rely on SC Ports’ efficient operations, cargo capacity and berth availability to keep goods moving through the Southeast supply chain,” Newsome said. “The global supply chain is however under tremendous stress due to disruptions from the pandemic. The slowdown in cargo velocity that we are currently experiencing due to a number of supply chain constraints is concerning as we head into the peak season this fall.”

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.