Nineteen of the world’s leading ocean carriers and marine terminal operators have expressed interest in the South Carolina State Ports Authority’s (SCSPA) port expansion projects in Charleston and Jasper County.

The SCSPA is currently pursuing permits for a new 280-acre, three-berth container terminal on the former Charleston Naval Base. Also, the SCSPA Board in January unanimously voted to pursue a state-owned marine terminal on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River in Jasper County.

The formal request for expression of interest (RFEI) issued in February was broad, “seeking private sector interest in participating financially in terminal design and development and operation of either or both,” of South Carolina’s major port expansion projects.

“We’re very pleased with the response,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., president and chief executive officer of the SCSPA. “There’s a strong demand for port capacity in the Southeastern US, and these two projects represent a tremendous opportunity.”

Next, the SPA will arrange one-on-one interviews with the firms.

“We look forward to discussing opportunities for partnerships with each of them individually,” said Groseclose.

The Corps of Engineers expects a decision on permits for the Charleston expansion project by August 2006. In January, the SPA Board approved a nearly $5 million environmental study to obtain the necessary approvals.

While the Charleston expansion is somewhat ahead of the Jasper project, the SCSPA intends to move both projects ahead on parallel courses.

Companies responding favorably to the RFEI include APL, APM Terminals, Ceres Terminals, COSCO North America, Eurogate, Evergreen America, Hanjin Shipping, Hutchison Port Holdings, K-Line America, Maersk Inc., MTC (Marine Terminals Corp.), Mistui O.S.K. Line, NYK Line (North America), OOCL (USA), P&O Nedlloyd, P&O Ports North America, SSA Marine and Yang Ming (America) and Zim-American Integrated Shipping Company.