Port of Charleston reaps benefits from SCSPA sales, terminal improvements

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTThere’s no time like the present to take hold of your best assets and prepare for a better future. That’s what the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) is doing. Over the past year, SCSPA has introduced target initiatives and customized solutions for clients to aggressively bring new business to its ports.
“We are starting to see some returns,” comments SCSPA spokesman Bryon Miller.
For one, container shipping volume through the Port of Charleston increased nearly 12 percent in the first three quarters of SCSPA’s fiscal year, reports SCSPA.
SCSPA’s fiscal year starts July 1.
At SCSPA ports of Charleston and Georgetown, break bulk cargo, including automobiles, project cargo, heavy lift shipments, increased 48 percent to 754,000 tons from 511,000 tons in the first three quarters of 2011. Its break bulk tonnage increased 48 percent, even as the pace of volume gains slowed.
In the July to March period, container traffic increased 11.6 percent to 1,033,062 TEUs, up from 925,837 TEUs in the same period last year. March volume alone was 120,265 TEUs, up 5.7 percent from March 2010.
“While the rate of growth is slowing from last year’s initial volume recovery, we are still moving in the right direction,” says Jim Newsome, SCSPA president and CEO. He expects that new distribution and manufacturing investments in the state and across the region, as well as export strength, will be felt in the coming months.
Overweight Permit Program
Historically, SCSPA ports have always handled diverse cargos, although the Port of Charleston has largely had a great concentration on container trades.
“We focused and continue to focus in the coming months on diversifying that business,” Miller states. “One of the ways we thought to do that was through non container cargos.”
Driving much of the growth on the container side, particularly the refrigerated segment, is a new overweight permit program for international containers traveling the state’s highways.
Prior to the program, containers were permitted up to 90,000 pounds gross vehicle weight on South Carolina roads. But in January 2010, a pilot program was introduced for reefer containers that expanded the weight limit to 100,000 pounds. Late last year, the program was expanded to all international shipping containers.
“This offers us a competitive advantage, especially given that today we are experiencing an export boom,” Miller says.
In fact, during the last five months, the Port of Charleston has been experiencing more exports than imports.
Terminal Improvements
Giving non containerized trade a boost, SCSPA recently dedicated its Columbus Street Terminal at the Port of Charleston.
The $22 million, six berth terminal is a dedicated break bulk, roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) heavy lift, and project cargo facility. Among its features are 3,500 continuous feet of berth space, 78 acres of open storage, an on-terminal road ability facility, a large on-dock staging apron, 259,149 square-feet of sprinkler-protected warehouses with covered rail access, ship side rail service, and an on-terminal rail yard, five container cranes (two super post-Panamax, two post-Panamax, one Panamax) with easy access to Interstate 26.
The facility is one hour sailing time away from the open ocean.
SCSPA’s Newsome describes the Columbus Street Terminal as rivaling the best of such facilities offered anywhere.
“With on-dock rail, excellent oversize clearances inland, substantial lay-down areas and mobile lifting capacity up to 500 tons, Charleston offers tremendous capabilities,” Newsman says.
“Now we have the capabilities of handling handle three ro/ro ships at one time and on dock rail for large and oversize project type, heavy lift pieces,” Miller remarks.
The expansion will also serve increases in other non-container cargoes. “With highly skilled labor, rail infrastructure and lifting capabilities up to 500 tons, Charleston offers solutions for over-dimensional moves,

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American Journal of Transportation