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South Carolina Ports sees record volumes in January

‘We are experiencing a record number of import containers on our terminals awaiting delivery’

January was a record month for South Carolina Ports, with loaded imports boosting overall port volumes.

The three terminals at the Port of Charleston — Wando Welch, North Charleston and Hugh K. Leatherman — handled 226,515 twenty-foot equivalent units in January, a 4.7% increase from January 2021, SC Ports said. Meanwhile, SC Ports handled 125,452 pier containers in January, up 3.5% year-over-year, and it handled 117,181 loaded imports, a nearly 23% gain from a year ago.

SC Ports noted that January was the 11th consecutive month of monthly year-over-year container records. 

January’s record comes as congestion at the Southern California ports drove interest in sending containers to the East Coast ports late last year. While vessel queues may now start to be easing up on the West Coast, as American Shipper reported Tuesday, the Port of Charleston and other East Coast ports saw the number of vessels waiting to anchor grow as some containerized volumes shifted to the East Coast.

“The global supply chain continues to see great strain from handling unprecedented amounts of cargo,” said SC Ports CEO Jim Newsome. “With record throughput volumes, we are experiencing a record number of import containers on our terminals awaiting delivery. South Carolina Ports invested strategically in port infrastructure, and we are deploying creative solutions to ensure fluidity for our customers.”

Since the beginning of SC Ports’ fiscal year on July 1, 2021, the port complex has handled more than 1.64 million TEUs, a nearly 15% increase from the same period in 2020 and 2021. And it handled 913,321 pier containers over that same time period, also a nearly 15% gain fiscal year-over-year.

Vehicle volumes rose nearly 16% in January, with the Columbus Street Terminal handling 14,172 vehicles.

But SC Ports’ two rail-served inland ports posted year-over-year volume declines. Inland Port Greer reported 9,301 rail moves, down from 13,401 rail moves in January 2021, while Inland Port Dillon reported 1,942 rail moves, compared with 2,870 rail moves last year. 

In addition to record monthly port volumes, January also marked the delivery of more than 700 chassis, in what SC Ports says will be the first chassis shipment among several in 2022. Another 1,600 chassis are expected to arrive this month. 

SC Ports expects to build up its fleet of the SMART chassis pool in April 2023. Dorsey Intermodal manufactured the chassis and has partnered with Vietnam-based manufacturer THACO Special Vehicle to increase manufacturing capacity. 

“The delivery of these chassis marks a new era for South Carolina Ports,” SC Ports COO Barbara Melvin said in a release. “With the launch of the chassis pool in 2023, South Carolina Ports will enhance the reliability, safety, quality and availability of equipment for the benefit of motor carriers and customers.”

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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.