Solid figures for SC Ports Authority despite tepid world market

Strong performances in the specialized cargo markets has helped South Carolina’s Ports Authority (SCPA) to post solid financial figures and hold its own in traffic volume despite a tepid world market..

The authority announced last month 2016 year-end operating earnings of $39 million, and revenues of $211 million, all increases over the previous year, though growth slowed.

These figures came on the heels of the announcement last month of a “modest container volume” increase of 1.4 percent, compared to a 14 percent increase in FY 2015.

"The port’s volumes follow world economic trends and we face a world economy that is tepid, with a slowing in emerging market economies,” SCPA spokesperson Erin Dhand told Palmetto Business Daily. “We did have very ambitious goals so we are quite pleased with year over year growth."

Dhand identified the specialized cargo markets as areas where there has been real growth over the past year.

"In specialized cargo markets, such as automotive parts and finished vehicles, and other types of cargo, including refrigerated and plastics, we are seeing growth,” Dhand said.

The authority also announced operating expenses of $172 million when disclosing their financial records.

“The port closed the FY2016 books with solid financials, reflecting our commitment to achieving the necessary performance to support our aggressive capital investment plan,” SCPA Board Chairman Pat McKinney said.

The SCPA handled 1.9 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) during the period from July 2015 to June 2016,  an increase of 1.4 percent over the previous fiscal year.

“With modest container volume growth in spite of a tepid world economy and operating earnings up over last year, SCPA is well-positioned to continue moving forward with key strategic projects and above-market growth,” SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said.

The SCPA’s 2017 fiscal year began in July with a TEU volume increase of 1.2 percent above the same month last year. The port handled 177,265 TEUs in July, compared to 175,223 in July 2015.

The port reported its strongest July on record for pier container volume, or box volume. SCPA handled 100,366 boxes at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals, exceeding the previous July record of 99,972 pier containers set in 2005.

“Both loaded import and export volumes were up in July, providing a strong start to fiscal 2017,” Newsome said. “We believe in setting ambitious targets and expect this year’s volume goals to be achieved through strength in the automotive segment, increases in specialized cargo like refrigerated cargo and plastics, continued expansion of our cargo base and solid fundamentals in the Southeastern port market.”

SCPA’s non-containerized cargo volumes in Charleston exceeded fiscal year plans by 9 percent. Charleston handled 70,773 pier tons of breakbulk cargo in July.

Inland Port Greer handled 7,303 rail moves last month. With 56,875 rail moves calendar year to date, the facility’s volumes remain on track to reach 100,000 moves in 2016.

It was also announced that the board has approved a contract for design consulting services for the two new ship-to-shore cranes for the Wando Welch Terminal, which are expected to be delivered in December 2017. The board also approved the purchase of replacement crane spreader bars.

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