Port of South Carolina posts record numbers as work to deepen harbor begins

The Port of South Carolina expects to grow much faster than other facilities in the U.S. in the coming years as a number of major developments are completed.

Construction began last month on the Charleston Harbor deepening project.   File photo

The Port of South Carolina expects to grow much faster than other facilities in the U.S. in the coming years as a number of major developments are completed.

The South Carolina Ports Authority's (SCPA) latest year-to-date figures reveal over 1.4 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) have passed through since July. SCPA moved 168,480 TEUs during the February, which drove a fiscal year-over-year container volume increase of 1.07 percent.

Additionally, construction began last month on the Charleston Harbor deepening project. When complete, the harbor's depth will be 52 feet -- large enough to accommodate super ships that will be able to traverse the newly widened Panama Canal.

"Growth of the port is incredibly positive news for the state and region," Erin Dhand, the Ports Authority's communications manager, told the Palmetto Business Daily. "The port is directly or indirectly responsible for one in 11 South Carolina jobs, and port-related jobs pay on average 40 percent higher than the state’s average wage."

Dhand projects the port will continue to see increased shipping at a rate well above the U.S. average and expects an increased frequency of big ship calls in the harbor.

"The port will achieve completion of several major projects over the coming years – modernization and new equipment for the Wando Terminal, completion of harbor deepening to 52 feet, and opening of the Leatherman Terminal," she said.

Jim Newsome, SCPA President and CEO, said in a statement following the publication of the latest figures that container volumes are on track leading into spring, which is generally a strong season for the port.

“It is an exciting and busy time for the port, having just received two new neo-Panamax cranes and celebrated the beginning of construction on the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project," he said in the statement. "We look forward to the next milestone, the opening of Inland Port Dillon, next month.”

Newsome described the beginning of work on the deepening of the port as a "monumental accomplishment." When completed, Charleston will be the deepest port on the East Coast.

"The container shipping industry today is dominated by big ships, and ports must adapt to handle them in order to remain competitive," he said in the statement. "Our project will be completed just 10 years from its initial conception in 2010."

As measured by the total number of boxes handled, SCPA moved 95,280 pier containers last month for a total of 795,951 containers fiscal year to date. In non-containerized cargo, Charleston breakbulk facilities handled 67,173 pier tons in February for a total of 476,219 tons since the fiscal year began.

Over 22,000 finished vehicles crossed the docks in February, an increase of 1 percent over the same month last year, and 140,275 vehicles have been handled by SCPA during the fiscal year to date.

It is estimated port operations facilitate 187,200 statewide jobs and generate nearly $53 billion annual economic activity, the authority said.

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