The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) Board approved its budget for the coming fiscal year, including more than $77 million in terminal upgrades and projections for a seven percent increase in container volume.

In the year starting July 1, the SCSPA plans to invest $77 million in terminal improvements, equipment upgrades and new information systems.  The largest area of spending is at existing facilities, totaling $35 million. More than $16 million is slated for construction of the new 286-acre container terminal at the former Navy Base.

“These investments strengthen South Carolina’s ability to serve our clients’ growth, which will be driven by the deepest channels in the Southeast and this state’s pro-business climate,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the SCSPA board.

Charleston today handles ships drawing up to 48 feet of water, including vessels of 8,000+ TEUs (20-foot equivalent container units), and in 2009 South Carolina led the Southeast in jobs recruited by bringing in 18,004 jobs, far above the regional average.

Charleston’s May container volume climbed more than 22 percent year-over-year with 68,238 pier containers handled and was even with the previous month.  That followed four consecutive months of year-over-year growth.

After several strong months, the Port of Charleston is now on track to meet its container volume budget in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“South Carolina’s ports are attracting business back at an increasing pace,” said Stern.  “While we still have some work to return the business levels of a few years ago, the meter has been moving in the right direction.”

Beyond the projected seven percent increase in container volume in fiscal 2011, non-container and breakbulk cargo handled at South Carolina’s public port facilities in Charleston and Georgetown are expected to climb 53 percent.