Watch Now

South Carolina sees uptick in port activity

Influx of cars and cargo could signal better economic times ahead

The CMA CGM became the largest vessel to call the Port of Charleston when it made a stop in September. (Photo: SCPA/Marion Bull)

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) said its September volumes reflect the strongest year-over-year activity since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and show a continued recovery and strength in containers, vehicles and inland moves. 

The SCPA handled a record-September 195,101 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals. It said the total was a “slight increase” year-over-year. The SCPA moved 581,912 TEUs in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, which began July 1. 

Vehicles remain a strong business segment for the Port of Charleston, the SCPA said, with 21,702 vehicles handled at the Columbus Street Terminal in September, down less than 2% year-over-year despite the wallop the automotive industry has taken during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The SCPA said inland ports Greer and Dillon also had a busy month as cargo activity increased. Inland Port Greer had 12,994 rail moves in September, up 4% year-over-year. Inland Port Dillon reported 3,108 rail moves, up 27% year-over-year.

“September volumes outperformed expectations as we see an uptick in cargo flowing through our marine terminals and inland ports,” SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a statement. “We remain highly focused on capturing more retail goods and e-commerce cargo, such as with Walmart’s new 3 million-square-foot distribution center in Dorchester County, South Carolina.”

The $220 million Walmart (NYSE: WMT) distribution center, announced in July, is expected to increase annual volumes at the Port of Charleston by about 5%

The SCPA also in September celebrated the record-setting CMA CGM Brazil call. The 15,072-TEU vessel is the largest to call East Coast ports. 

The CMA CGM Brazil, as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, visited the ports of Halifax, New York and New Jersey, Virginia, and Savannah before ending its North American visit at the Port of Charleston.

The SCPA said it has invested $2 billion to modernize its infrastructure, including upgrades to the Wando Welch Terminal and construction of the first phase of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, which will open in March. The Charleston Harbor deepening project also is fully funded and on schedule to achieve a 52-foot depth next year, the SCPA said. 

According to the SCPA, the Leatherman facility will be the first new container terminal to open in the United States since 2009. Phase one will add 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity to the Port of Charleston. At full buildout, the three-berth terminal will double SCPA’s current container-handling capability by adding 2.4 million TEUs of throughout capacity.

SCPA using BUILD monies to pave way for Walmart distribution center

Walmart picks site near Port of Charleston for distribution center

South Carolina Ports encouraged by steady rebound

Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.