Port of Charleston volume up 19 percent, reaches new milestone

CHARLESTON, SC (SCSPA) - Deepening of Charleston Harbor, already the deepest in the Southeast, reached another milestone as container volumes in the Port of Charleston increased 19 percent in the first half of 2010.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Charleston District has concluded the Reconnaissance Study for the post-45-foot deepening project in Charleston Harbor. The study determined a federal interest in proceeding to the next step in the process to further define time and costs associated with deepening Charleston's channels.

At the same time, container volumes in the Port of Charleston have continued to climb. Buoyed by new shipping services and major new investments in the area, container volume increased 19 percent during the first six months of 2010.

In June, pier containers at the Port of Charleston increased almost 34 percent over the previous year – the fourth straight month of year-over-year, double-digit increases.

Despite widespread declines in global trade in 2009, the SCSPA volumes rebounded during the past six months and closed its most recent fiscal year exceeding its budgeted container volume. In the accounting period that ended June 30, Charleston handled 741,208 pier containers, off 5.2 percent from the previous fiscal year.

"Despite a very challenging economic environment, the SCSPA posted an operating profit and enjoyed strong volume increases over the past six months," said Bill Stern, chairman of the SCSPA board.  "While we expect volume to moderate in the latter half of the year, we're encouraged that business has returned at such a fast pace and we're headed in the right direction."

Contributing to the recent volume gains, Charleston added three new shipping services in FY2010, including Mediterranean Shipping Company's Golden Gate Service (GGS). The GGS, which had its first local call in February, is bringing ships of more than 8,000 20-foot equivalent units to the port on a regular basis.  This highlights Charleston's deep-water capabilities in the Southeast region.

"The port is handling the biggest ships on the East Coast today while working toward even deeper channels that will secure our state's future in global trade," said Jim Newsome, SCSPA president and CEO.

On the cargo development side, major global corporations are locating or expanding in the port's service area while the SCSPA has launched new targeted sales efforts:

  • TBC Corporation, parent company of Tire Kingdom, is the largest distribution center to announce in the past year. TBC is locating a new 1.1 million square foot distribution facility in Berkeley County and will import tires through the Port of Charleston.
  • Several other importers and logistics firms located or expanded in the area, while private developers are proceeding with plans to build more than 20 million square feet in new industrial space near Charleston's deepwater port facilities.
  • Targeted marketing efforts, including a new rail-served warehouse initiative and an expanded overweight permit for refrigerated containers are also boosting container volume.

During the current fiscal year, which began on July 1, the SCSPA is projecting a seven percent increase in container volume and a more than 50 percent increase in breakbulk and non-container cargo.

At the same time, the SCSPA plans to invest nearly $77 million this fiscal year on terminal improvements, including work on the SCSPA's new container terminal on the former Navy Base as well as a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.