SC Ports announce huge container volume growth

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.

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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

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

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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