Business leaders get a look at Charleston port firsthand

By Tracey Amick  bio | email

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Members of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce had a chance to see the Charleston Port in action Thursday.

"The port is a huge economic driver not only for our region but also the state of South Carolina," said past Chamber Chairman, David Maybank.

In fact, Charleston's port brings in $45 billion every year and employs more than 260,000 workers across South Carolina.

CEO Jim Newsome said as the port grows, so should those numbers. And while things are looking good right now, there are challenges ahead.

"Recovering our volume that we lost and working on building our new facilities so we'll keep up with the demand and expand to meet the numbers we anticipate," Newsome said.

The new Navy Base terminal is an example. The permits were received in April 2007 and construction started the next month. The terminal should be complete in 2017, adding 280 acres onto the existing 500 acres that the port currently occupies. That additional will grow our port more than 50 percent.

"This is the only permitted terminal on the East coast it puts us in a neat position," Newsome said.

But to keep up with the competition dredging is key.

"Because the ships are getting big... when they come in they need a port like New York in the North Atlantic, in the Mid Atlantic they need one like Norfolk and they need one in the South Atlantic, which we are in a good position to be," Newsome said.

Cruise traffic is up as well. In May Carnival announced Charleston as a home port, and this year we will see 64 ships, where in 2011 that number will be 94. Newsome says he looks forward to renovating the Union Pier Passenger Terminal to meet the demands of that increase.

Copyright 2010 WCSC. All rights reserved.