SCPA sees bright future, new inland port in Dillon

VIDEO: SCPA sees bright future, new inland port in Dillon

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Lowcountry will see an increase in cargo transportation on land and by water with a new inland port announced for the state.

The South Carolina Ports Authority board of directors approved a decision to construct a second inland port in Dillon, that will open by the end of 2017.

The new complex will join the Greer inland port sending cargo by train to Charleston area terminals.

"Inland Port Dillon will be a great diversification of our state's logistics footprint," said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO. "Building inter-modal infrastructure in our state goes hand-in-hand with the significant investment we are making to our port facilities in Charleston. This is an exciting opportunity for SCPA."

Newsome said 25% of the volume they do is rail inter-modal, which means using two or more methods of moving goods across the area. He added this is an important part of how SCPA operates.

"You have a real limited number of chances to do things like that," Newsome said. "inter-modal rail line is about 5% of a rail network. So Dillon was that location that really stood out."

Located in the "Pee Dee" region of South Carolina, the site was selected for its proximity to I-95, a critical transportation artery in the Southeast, as well as a significant base of existing Port users in the area that represent base cargo opportunities for the facility.

At Monday's annual State of the Port, leaders said the future looks bright for the Ports Authority, based on this year's results.

"We sustained our growth and earnings in a very difficult trade environment," Newsome said.

The Ports Authority saw $211.2 million in revenue for the 2016 fiscal year, the Port's container volume grew 1.4 percent, and the non-containerized cargo handled in Charleston exceeded the planned tonnage by 33-percent.

"We [also] increased our investment thesis by getting our second fill for the Leatherman terminal going," Newsome said.

The Hugh K. Leatherman, Sr. container terminal is under construction at the old Navy base in North Charleston; expected for completion by 2020.

It's part of the $2.2 billion investment plan by the Ports Authority and the state to help Charleston stand out against all the other ports in the country.

Right now Charleston is ranked ninth in the country behind three other east coast ports (New York/New Jersey, Savannah, Oakland Roads).

"The Charleston brand is very, very strong," Newsome said. "We have a tremendous visibility in the world today. People know we're competing very hard, that we provide a good product. We can't be satisfied with that. We have to provide a better product."

Better product means faster port calls, and smooth terminals.

Despite the complications of the advanced gate system at the Wando Welch terminal, it's getting more and more business through that port.

"We just do a lot of volume in Wando today," Newsome said. "We do close to 6,000 gate transactions a day on some days."

The North Charleston terminal is expected to get a new gate system by the end of the year. Newsom said they're not anticipating any issues.

Long-term projects for SCPA include the desire for big ships at our ports.

"Today 16 of 26 weekly container services calling the Port of Charleston utilize New Panamax vessels, and we expect to see others upsized in the future," Newsome said. "Top 10 ports must make significant investments to prepare facilities to serve these bigger ships, including taller cranes and stronger terminal infrastructure, as well as harbor deepening projects. We have worked diligently to ensure that the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project to 52 feet remains on track to deliver all of the capabilities needed of a modern harbor by the end of the decade."

SCPA also adopted a new vision and values plan as part of a cultural change initiative, with nearly 500 employees having ownership of the Port's future.

"SCPA has a talented workforce and maritime community, and they are critical components of our success," Newsome said. "We provide a good product, and our customers can rely on us to keep their freight moving."

Port operations facilitate 187,200 statewide jobs and generate nearly $53 billion in annual economic activity.

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