SC Ports announce huge container volume growth

Posted: August 3, 2015 by Stacey Barrington

SC Ports Announces 14% Container Volume Growth

Breakbulk tonnage exceeds plans by 6 percent; Inland Port achieves record rail moves

CHARLESTON, SC – Container volumes increased 14 percent during SC Ports Authority’s 2015 fiscal year, building upon several previous years of above-market growth with strength across all business segments.

“2015 was a memorable year for SC Ports Authority,” said SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome. “We reached near-record levels of containerized cargo and saw strong volume and good diversification of the breakbulk sector. From an operations perspective, highlights of this year include handling the highest ever month of pier containers in May and Inland Port rail moves in June, all while delivering high reliability and logistics efficiencies for our customers.”

SCPA handled 1.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) during the fiscal year that ended June 30, a jump of 231,473 TEUs from the 2014 fiscal year. June volumes provided a strong finish to FY2015 with 169,913 TEUs moved during the month.

Pier containers, or box volume, also climbed 14 percent in FY2015 with 138,221 more boxes handled compared to FY2014. SCPA moved 96,916 boxes in June, pushing total fiscal year volume to 1.1 million containers.

“I’m extremely proud of the significant growth we achieved this fiscal year,” said Bill Stern, SCPA Board Chairman. “The SCPA’s continued success is rooted in the leadership of our strong Board, a talented CEO and senior staff, and support from a productive maritime community.”

Strong fundamentals played a key role in the above-market growth of SCPA’s containerized cargo segment. Amidst progress of the Panama Canal expansion and the Bayonne Bridge raising, big ships have transitioned to East Coast trade routes, and SCPA currently receives 11 post-Panamax vessel calls each week. Manufacturing in the Southeast remains strong, and SCPA provides the deep water required to handle ships fully-loaded with heavy exports. The booming automotive sector in the Southeast also supported both import and export volume gains.

Successful recruitment of discretionary cargo played a key role in SCPA’s above-market growth as well. A competitive, broad-based rail market with ample capacity has made SCPA the port of choice for cargo produced beyond the Southeast region, including plastics from the US Gulf and agricultural products from the Midwest. Volume gains of agricultural exports were also driven by local industries such as SC-grown soybeans, whose export volume doubled during the last fiscal year.

“Fiscal year 2015 was marked by a number of exciting economic development announcements representing future volume opportunities for SCPA, including Daimler, Kent Bicycle, Volvo, and most recently, Dollar Tree,” Newsome said. “The port’s ability to serve these companies’ supply chains played a key role in their decision to locate or expand in SC. Our strategic initiative to grow our cargo base is paying off.”

In the non-containerized cargo segment, breakbulk tonnage exceeded fiscal year planned volumes by 6 percent with 1.4 million pier tons handled during the year. Georgetown moved 548,933 tons during the period, while Charleston handled 871,974 tons. Roll-on/roll-off cargo within the breakbulk sector grew significantly, and SCPA achieved the highest finished vehicle volume ever handled at the Columbus Street Terminal. In FY2015, 253,338 vehicles moved across SCPA docks, an increase of 15 percent over the previous record of 219,900 vehicles in FY2008.

Monthly volumes peaked at the Inland Port in June, with 6,736 rail moves handled during the month. The terminal’s first full fiscal year of operations concluded with 58,407 rail moves, which surpasses initial annual volumes projected five years into terminal operations.

In the fiscal year ahead, SCPA expects to continue to grow above the US port market average and focus on increasing revenues to fund its capital projects, including the construction of the Navy Base container terminal by the end of the decade. FY2016 will also be a significant year for deepening the Charleston Harbor to 52 feet, with the Chief’s Report expected in September while the Preconstruction Engineering and Design phase is ongoing, followed by construction.

SC Ports Logo

176 Concord Street, P.O. Box 22287, Charleston, SC 29413-2287
Contact: Erin Dhand, Public Relations Manager
Telephone: 843-577-8121 • Fax: 843-577-8127 • e-mail:

Move hints at North Charleston Rail Compromise

Posted: December 1, 2010 by Stacey Barrington

By David Slade , Yvonne Wenger

The S.C. Division of Public Railways has dropped its effort to seize some of the Noisette Co.’s land on the former Navy base in North Charleston, where the state agency is planning over the city’s objections to run a rail line to a future port terminal.

One lawmaker immersed in the controversy sees it as a sign that compromise talks are gaining steam.

Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the state’s Port Oversight Committee, said he has not talked with the S.C. Commerce Department-run Public Railways about abandoning the condemnation effort.

But Grooms added, “I do believe when you drop your effort to condemn a certain parcel of land when your plan was supposed to be that, negotiations are continuing.”

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said talks aimed at seeking a compromise have been ongoing and should resume after Tuesday’s city elections. Summey, who has blasted the rail plan, is seeking re-election.

“We’re getting closer,” Summey said. “There’s always room for compromise, if you can get everyone to the table.”

He said the larger issue of rail access to the new port remains unresolved, and a city lawsuit aimed at blocking the deal continues.

The state said it still is pursuing its rail plan, but is modifying the route. The proposal includes running rail access to the future port at the south end of the base from the north end, which Summey and other opponents have said would harm redevelopment efforts around Park Circle by sending freight trains through the area.

The withdrawal of the condemnation means the rail line would no longer go through the Charleston Naval Hospital Historic District on the former base. The land in question measures just over 3 acres along St. Johns Avenue.

The state’s decision to drop its condemnation efforts on that tract was filed with the court this week.

“Railways has recently abandoned the condemnation of one parcel of property located in the Charleston Naval Hospital Historic District to attempt to develop a feasible alternative to that portion of the rail plan,” Commerce spokeswoman Amy Love said in written statement.

She added that “this action in no way diminishes South Carolina Public Railways’ commitment” to ensuring access to the region’s two private rail operators at a proposed facility on the base where containers would be transferred between ships and trains.

Summey and Grooms both indicated Thursday that a solution may be getting closer, but the key point of contention — bringing in rail from the north end of the old base — remains.

“With or without that parcel, the Department of Commerce plan would be to run some rail out of the northern end of the base,” Grooms said.

The so-called “dual access” plan the state is promoting is meant to assure that Norfolk Southern and CSX each have competitive access to the new port.

Gov. Nikki Haley said she has made it clear to Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt that she wants to see the rail controversy resolved.

“He knows that I want it done yesterday and I want a resolution done yesterday, and what he has assured me is that the conversations have been productive and we will see some results,” she said.

Jeff Baxter of Noisette Co. called the latest legal development “perplexing,” because an appraiser hired by the state had met with company officials just a day before the court filing that nixed the condemnation effort. The move hasn’t been explained to the company, he said.

“We’re happy that (the rail line) is not going through that property, and we’ll relist those properties for sale,” he said.

With with the threat of condemnation removed, Baxter said the company will resume planning to redevelop the former hospital as office space, and will market the three houses on the adjacent property and several parcels of vacant land.

North Charleston City Council, public to meet on commercial rail

Posted: August 14, 2010 by Stacey Barrington

Staff Reports
Charleston Regional Business Journal
North Charleston City Council will meet Thursday to discuss the ongoing commercial rail situation and vote on agreement that could move a controversial plan forward.

The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.

The City Council will also accept public comment on an ordinance that would authorize Mayor Keith Summey to green light a memorandum of understanding linking the city, CSX Transportation, and developer Shipyard Creek Associates.

Under the plan, an intermodal rail yard would be built on land owned by Shipyard Creek and served by CSX rail lines. The facility would provide near-dock rail access to the new S.C. Ports Authority terminal under construction at the former Navy Base.

The agreement is also in line with a 2002 memorandum of understanding between the city and the SPA that calls for the maritime agency to utilize rail access running out of the south end of the property.

Opponents, notably the S.C. Department of Commerce, its for-profit arm S.C. Public Railways and CSX rival Norfolk Southern, say the plan would decrease competition and hurt the port. Those three also support a plan for an intermodal facility at a site on the Navy base currently deeded to a Clemson University research program.

For those unable to attend, meeting will also be streamed live online .


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Summey, Commerce Dept. to discuss rail

Posted: August 13, 2010 by Stacey Barrington

By Schuyler Kropf
The Post and Courier

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey next week will talk to the Department of Commerce for the first time in months about rail issues in the city — a chance for both sides to thaw an ice-cold relationship over rail line to a new State Ports Authority terminal.

Commerce’s position that the new terminal at the southern end of the former Charleston Naval Base have dual access for both major rail providers in the area — CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern railroad — has been a major point of contention recently.

But with the city of North Charleston moving ahead on its own rail-routing plan cooperatively with CSX and a local developer, Summey said it is time to make contact with Commerce Department Secretary Joe Taylor about rekindling a dialogue.

“We called them,” Summey said Thursday night just before City Council voted to support a memorandum of understanding on rail routing with CSX and developer Shipyard Creek Associates. “We just thought it was important we go up there and tell them what our plan is.”

Beyond their icy rail rift, Summey said the city and Commerce officials have gotten along fine, including on the long-term effort to land the Boeing airplane expansion. The meeting is set for Wednesday.

Summey’s announcement came as council also approved seeking $3 million in federal planning money to help with the rail project. The money would come as a federal Department of Transportation grant, with a $600,000 match coming from CSX and Shipyard Creek.

The memorandum approved Thursday, supporters say, is a major defense of the city’s growth pattern and is designed to prevent rail lines to the new port coming from the north end of the city — a route city officials say would destroy years of neighborhood development.

Instead, the city wants to reconnect neighborhoods through three other moves: closing a little more than three miles of current CSX track through neighborhoods, creating a half mile of new track and rebuilding another half mile of mostly dormant track.

The agreement would help toward redevelopment of CSX’s Cooper Yard and Shipyard Creek’s Macalloy property into an intermodal rail facility and warehousing space capable of serving the new port terminal under construction at the former Navy base. Proponents also say it removes at least 20 rail crossings that stall traffic, while protecting Clemson University’s property at the former base for wind turbine research. The cost of the plan could run at least $100 million to cover land acquisition and rerouting.
Opponents, meanwhile, contend it has a major flaw: Norfolk Southern Corp. would be denied direct rail access to the new terminal, something they want to ensure competition.

Summey on Thursday night said he was still committed to his plan and remains willing to talk with Norfolk Southern as well. “We’re not going to let you come through the north end of the Naval Base, but we’ll work with you,” he said.


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North Charleston to hold Rail Hearing

Posted: August 5, 2010 by Stacey Barrington

Post & Courier Staff

North Charleston to hold rail hearing
 Photo by Alan Hawes, Post & Courier

A CSX train sits near the former Navy base.

North Charleston City Council will hold a public hearing tonight on the city’s plans to change and open rail lines capable of serving the new state port being built at the southern end of the former Naval Base and shipyard.

Public comment will be heard on an ordinance authorizing Mayor Keith Summey to execute a memorandum of understanding and agreement between North Charleston, CSX Transportation and Shipyard Creek Associates LLC.

The special Committee of the Whole meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in City Council chambers. No sign-up is required for those wishing to speak.

The three entities are cooperating in an effort to close about 3.2 miles of current CSX track that bisects several neighborhoods, while at the same time creating half a mile of new track and rebuilding another half a mile of track that had been left mostly dormant.

Summey said it is the best way to ensure rail connections in and out of the new facility, being built by the State Ports Authority, without severely impacting neighborhoods.

Opponents say the plan favors CSX over competitor Norfolk Southern railroad in making port access available.


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Norfolk Southern Bristles at North Chuck Rail Deal

Posted: July 20, 2010 by Stacey Barrington

Company says CSX proposal would constitute monopoly

July 20, 2010

By Greg Hambrick
Charleston City Paper

Rail lines pepper the Navy Yard at Noisette, a North Charleston mixed-use development stalled by the housing market bust and the lingering recession. Some tracks run through parking lots, others end abruptly in grassy medians or in the middle of the road.

Norfolk Southern bristles at<br /> North Chuck rail deal
The new port in North Charleston is going to need a transfer site similar to the one pictured. The question is whether it will heat to the north or south.

The one rail route still in use, though only rarely, runs between the Army Wives set and new lofts — one of the few projects under construction. Just down the road, Force Protection Humvees line up on a side street, awaiting transport. It’s indicative of the old Navy Yard’s unlikely marriage between its industrial roots and the City of North Charleston’s vision for a new hub of condos and commercial development.

Almost two years ago, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey threw himself down on the tracks, rhetorically, warning that he wouldn’t allow new train traffic to run through the post-industrial urban center the city has been shepherding for more than a decade. He would go on to repeat that threat to the press, to the public, and to industry and state officials behind closed doors.

If they didn’t take him seriously before, everyone’s ears perked up earlier this month when Summey unveiled an agreement with rail company CSX and developers at Shipyard Creek Associates that would include a CSX-owned transfer facility south of the new port. It puts a thumb in the eye of efforts to rev up train engines straight through Summey’s dream of Navy Yard neighborhoods.

Opponents had remained silent through behind-the-scenes talks, but they’re coming forward to offer their pitch and plead for relief from anyone that will listen.

Through a complicated real estate exchange, Summey will get the rail right-of-way through several North Charleston neighborhoods and remove any lingering train traffic that runs through a portion of the revitalized Park Circle community. Meanwhile, CSX will get enough land for its new transfer facility and additional rail access to support it.

Norfolk Southern executives climbed off a plane last week, determined to make sure the public knew they weren’t on board with this deal.

“We always felt like this was more of a state issue than a Norfolk Southern issue,” says Steven Evans, Norfolk Southern vice president for ports and international.

That’s not to say they haven’t pitched solutions of their own. The company has offered its design and rail experience to state leaders, pouring over hundreds of scenarios and dozens of sites. Routes to the south of the new port are monopolized by competitor CSX, and this proposal would only cement the company’s control.

“We’ve told everyone that anything that comes in on the south puts us at a disadvantage,” Evans says. “In order to be competitive, we’ve got to come from the north.”

Norfolk Southern’s existing transfer yard is, ironically, about a block from North Charleston City Hall. Evans says that trains are already delayed 45-60 minutes at a time because of a nearby connection with CSX.

The concern is that delays will be exacerbated at a CSX-controlled facility because its trains will go first.

“We’d be completely at their mercy,” says Evans. “Anything that comes from the south and we lose control of our business.”

“This can be done without blocking us out,” Evans says.

That is true. But you’d have to go through Mayor Summey to do it, at least figuratively speaking.

The assumption is that the CSX deal would eliminate northern rail access. That’s not quite right. Both companies currently run about 3,000 train cars a year to the edge of Noisette Creek at the northern end of the property. S.C. Public Railways, a corporate division of the state’s Department of Commerce, take the cars down to waterfront industries.

“(Mayor Summey) has no authority to keep us out of the Navy Yard,” says S.C. Public Railways President and CEO Jeff McWhorter. “He’s not going to win that argument.”

S.C. Public Railways would manage the northern transfer facility as an independent third party, but in the discussions these days, it’s on the side of Norfolk Southern, quite possibly because Norfolk Southern is the only one enamored with the idea.

But there are several balls still in the air regarding the northern transfer site. Clemson University has already called dibs on the site as a prime spot to augment its wind turbine facility across the street.

Another question is whether Public Railways will be able to wrest control of the track and make the improvements needed to handle the new traffic. S.C. Public Railways has the right to run on the tracks, but the ownership is currently in dispute.

And then there’s the heavy price tag. It would cost roughly $100 million for the shared facility, McWhorter says. Public Railways has applied for federal grants, but has yet to find the money. A decision would likely come first on whether North Charleston gets the unspecified amount it will need in federal grants to make its land swap work. And a CSX victory would make a Norfolk Southern facility to the north a questionable investment.

Norfolk Southern says it wasn’t consulted on Summey’s deal. When pressed on what the city gets out of the northern alternative, it’s clear why the mayor’s not listening.

“With all due respect to North Charleston, it’s a state issue,” says McWhorter.

Norfolk Southern Marketing Manager Augie Eckhardt asked what right Summey had to be parochial.

The proposed Noisette development itself could be a hindrance. Eckhardt “applauds” CSX for the plans to pull up tracks through the residential areas of North Charleston.

“We think it’s a great idea to get out of the neighborhoods,” he says.

But Summey’s vision would have homes and businesses essentially surrounding a portion of the proposed northern rail line.

Summey says that any attempt to impose northern rail access “will end up in litigation.”

“My role as mayor is to protect my citizenry,” Summey says. “They think they can come in and destroy everything we’ve worked for.”

If Norfolk Southern is given access north of the site, its likely that most all of its trains will head through the Noisette development.

Norfolk Southern will now take the fight to legislators in Columbia and Washington, other industries, and community leaders.

“The stakeholders should know there’s an alternative.”

The company is also on a tight rope — suggesting that clients could move elsewhere, including BMW, while also stating Norfolk Southern is committed to Charleston.

“We wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t want to stay in this port,” Eckhardt says.


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