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July container volumes boom at South Carolina ports

Loaded imports grew 47% year-over-year

July was a record month for SC Ports. (Photo: South Carolina Ports Authority)

South Carolina ports moved a record volume of containers in July, the first month of its 2021-2022 fiscal year.

The flagship Port of Charleston handled a record 244,831 TEUs in July at the Wando Welch, North Charleston and Hugh K. Leatherman terminals. That is 38% higher than a year ago and is a record for July. July also saw the second-highest all-time volume for any month for the port. The highest all-time volume occurred in March, when the port handled 248,796 TEUs.

“We begin our fiscal year 2022 with record container volumes, which comes on the heels of moving more containers than ever before in fiscal year 2021,” South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports) President and CEO Jim Newsome said. 

The port also handled 137,158 pier containers in the month, a 38% increase from July 2020. This figure accounts for boxes of any size.

Also posting an all-time record were loaded imports, which grew 47% year-over-year. Loaded exports rose 14% over the same period. 

Some volumes were flat or lower year-over-year. Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon handled a combined 13,976 rail moves in July, slightly higher than the 13,610 rail moves that occurred a year ago. 

Meanwhile, the volume of vehicles handled at the Columbus Street Terminal tumbled: SC Ports handled 15,420 vehicles at the Columbus Street Terminal in July, down from the 25,128 vehicles moved in July 2020.

This SONAR chart (ICSTM.USCHS) shows a seven-day moving average of imports at the Port of Charleston since July 1, 2020, based on U.S. Customs data. (FreightWaves SONAR) To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

“While import and export loaded containers are both growth segments, the widening disparity of imports over exports is continued evidence of the strength of the U.S. consumer. As the only port in the country with new terminal capacity, SC Ports has the ability to handle the growing cargo volumes and rising retail imports,” Newsome said.

The year-over-year increases come as capacity grew at SC Ports in the past year. The Leatherman Terminal completed the first phase of an expansion that added 700,000 TEUs of capacity and an additional berth. Meanwhile, work is underway to enhance the Wando Welch Terminal, expand Inland Port Greer and develop near-dock rail close to Leatherman Terminal.

Last month, SC Ports said it handled a record 2.55 million TEUs in its fiscal year that ended on June 30, a 9.6% increase from fiscal year 2020.

“Our strategic investments are proving beneficial as we handle unprecedented cargo volumes in support of our customers,” Newsome said. “As more major retailers move goods through the Port of Charleston, we are ready with efficient operations, thanks to our excellent maritime community.”

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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.