The South Carolina Ports Authority blamed congestion at other ports on fewer container ships calling in February, “resulting in lower-than-expected volumes.”
The historic congestion in California’s San Pedro Bay has had a cascading effect on other U.S. ports. A snowstorm in the Northeast that put a temporary freeze on cargo movements at some ports also may have contributed to the slowdown in South Carolina, although weather was not mentioned in the SCPA’s press release Wednesday.
South Carolina Ports moved 182,269 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) at the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals in February. The SCPA did not say how much that total was down from February 2020, but American Shipper reported last year that 197,214 TEUs were moved that month.
Early in 2021, container volumes had been up year-over-year, as 216,265 TEUs were moved in January. That was a 2.5% increase over January 2020.
The SCPA this week did tout strong cargo volumes at its two rail-served inland ports, “particularly Inland Port Greer, which had a record February. Inland Port Greer reported 14,418 rail moves, up nearly 5% year-over-year,” it said.
A month earlier, Inland Port Greer, located in upstate South Carolina, had its best January with 13,401 rail moves, a 16% year-over-year hike.
The SCPA said Inland Port Dillon, located in the Pee Dee region of the state, had “2,823 rail moves in February and 24,593 rail moves fiscal year-to-date, up 7.4% year-over-year.”
The SCPA’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. For February alone, Port Dillon’s year-over-year volume was down from 3,068 rail moves in 2020.
South Carolina Ports CEO Jim Newsome said in Wednesday’s statement, “As retail imports continue to boom during the pandemic, the ability to quickly move goods from ships to the hinterland via rail is paramount. Cargo owners benefit from SC Ports’ fast import transit to population centers — with intermodal imports arriving at the rail heads within 24 hours — and overnight rail service to Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon.”
The SCPA said vehicle volumes “remained steady” at the Port of Charleston, with 17,555 vehicles handled at the Columbus Street Terminal in February.
The SCPA did not say how many vehicles were handled in February 2020, but said, “Thus far in fiscal year 2021, SC Ports has handled 165,528 vehicles, up nearly 11% from the same time the year prior.”
The 12,226 vehicles handled in January was a 21.5% decrease from the 15,577 moved in the first calendar month of 2020.