By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
Perhaps it’s a good sign of the times. Officials at the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) indicate that break bulk volumes are up significantly with total pier tons up 46.5 percent in March compared to the same month last year at terminals in Charleston and Georgetown.
South Carolina is seeing a broad increase in non-container volumes across various commodity groups. Examples include steel, heavy lift/oversize, defense-related vehicles, finished automobiles, project moves and other general break bulk cargoes.
According to Byron Miller, SCSPA spokesman, as of late, exports have been driving most of the increase in non-container cargo.
“However, inquiries are up significantly,” he says. “And, importantly, they’re larger deals with longer terms and durations.”
In fact, Miller reveals, there are some big deals out there right now. “The tide’s turning on the economy, and the secret is out on South Carolina’s non-container capabilities,” he exclaims. “We expect to grow our non-container business substantially in the coming year.”
Miller particularly sees the major contributing factor for increases of break bulk volumes being the fact that non-container cargo is actually a strategic focus for SCSPA.
“We’re aggressively putting together and marketing a product that saves our clients money and gets their shipments safely to the destination,” he says.
In fact, SCSPA has launched a strategic initiative to attract and serve non-container cargo segments.
“The Ports of Charleston and Georgetown are fully committed to serving this business,” he says. “The SCSPA’s new management team has its own corporate philosophy, and non-container cargoes are key elements to this approach.”
A real plus to accommodating any size of bulk, break bulk and project shipment is the fact the four terminals at the Ports of Charleston and Georgetown offers diverse and capable multi-purpose rail-served facilities. For example, Miller describes, a heavy lift barge crane based in Charleston is ideal for exceptionally heavy moves up to 450 tons.
“In addition,” he says, “Charleston and Georgetown have both the facilities and the corporate commitment to building and growing the business. Considerable terminal capacity and skilled labor are in place to safely and efficiently handle just about any kind of non-container cargo. Plus, break bulk is a sound business with good local impacts on the maritime community and labor.”
Reflecting this new corporate dedication to the non-container business segments, the SCSPA has recently added a full-time position to focus solely on new accounts for the port. Place in that position is Brad Stroble, who now works as sales and marketing manager for break bulk, bulk and project cargo. SCSPA officials are confident that he has extensive experience in non-container operations in the seaport environment.
Also reflecting this commitment to the non-container business, the SCSPA is trying to be even more aggressive in coming up with logistics solutions for beneficial cargo owners and others involved in what can sometimes be rather complex moves over many months. SCSPA.
Other changes over the last five years that are contributing to SCSPA’s increases in break bulk business is the fact several well-known, top market-share carriers now call at the Port of Charleston.
“For example, Rickmers and Chipolbrok now have Charleston on their radar, calling here rather frequently on inducement,” says Miller. “We look forward to building the business to make these regular calls.”
Of course, it goes without saying that the Port of Charleston’s and the Port of Georgetown’s infrastructure for handling break bulk items are also a significant reason for the success of this sector of business.
Charleston has three terminals for non-container cargo: Union Pier Terminal, Columbus Street Terminal and Veterans Terminal.
Union Pier Terminal (UPT) is one of the Po