The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) looked on the bright side when reporting August volumes. Yes, the number of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled in August was down 10% year-over-year, but the performance was 18% better than the month before.
The SCPA “saw some positive cargo trends in August, pointing to a slow but emerging recovery during the ongoing global pandemic,” the announcement said.
The Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals handled 208,837 TEUs in August, down 10% from the year prior but “trending positively,” up 18% from July and 33% from June.
“Our August volumes surpassed expectations, reflecting the best year-over-year month since the pandemic began impacting global supply chains in March,” SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “We are encouraged by a steady rebound in containers, vehicles and inland port rail moves.”
August also marked the second-highest month ever for imports at the Port of Charleston, the SCPA said.
“Our imports are returning to — and at times surpassing — pre-pandemic levels as consumers invest in more goods for their homes and families,” Newsome said. “Our efficient operations and big-ship capabilities perfectly suit the needs of global retailers who require reliability and adaptability in their supply chains.”
The SCPA said it recently “celebrated a big win in the retailer and e-commerce space” with Walmart (NYSE: WMT) investing in a 3 million-square-foot distribution center in Dorchester County, South Carolina. The $220 million facility is expected to eventually boost port volumes by 5% annually.
“Walmart is the recognized leader in supply chain innovation and performance. Having this world-class company choose our market for their distribution center is the ultimate vote of confidence,” Newsome said in July.
The SCPA also sees the new cars parked at the Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal as a vote of confidence in its abilities in the roll-on/roll-off vessel sector.
The SCPA moved 26,214 vehicles in August, a 38% year-over-year increase. The port authority said vehicle volumes are up 42% in the fiscal year, with 51,342 vehicles handled in July and August. The SCPA’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Inland Port Greer “continues to rebound” with 13,422 rail moves in August, while Inland Port Dillon had its best month yet with 3,527 rail moves.
The SCPA said work continues to enable the handling of the world’s largest container ships. The Charleston Harbor deepening project is on track to achieve a 52-foot depth next year, and construction of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal at the Port of Charleston is on schedule for a March opening.
Five ship-to-shore cranes with 169 feet of lift height above the wharf deck are slated to arrive in October, outfitting the Leatherman Terminal with some of the tallest ship-to-shore cranes on the U.S. East Coast. The first phase of the Leatherman Terminal construction will add 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity, the SCPA said.
“SC Ports has planned and invested to ensure the right infrastructure is coming online at the right time,” Newsome said. “A deeper harbor, new ship-to-shore cranes, a new container terminal and enhancements to existing terminals will enable us to handle four 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously next year.”
The Port of Charleston already is prepared to handle its largest ship to ever call. The 15,072-TEU CMA CGM Brazil is scheduled to sail into Charleston Harbor on Sunday.