SC Ports State of the Port Emphasizes Importance of Infrastructure Investment to Support Ongoing Growth Projections
Wednesday, October 31st, 2018
South Carolina Ports Authority president and CEO, Jim Newsome, presented the annual State of the Port to an audience of approximately 600 customers, elected officials and shipping industry representatives at the Charleston Area Convention Center. Jim’s presentation focused on the Port’s successes, strategic infrastructure investments to support continued container volume growth, new initiatives to increase Port productivity and overall industry trends that will impact the Port in the future. The Propeller Club of Charleston hosted the event which marked Newsome’s tenth address since joining SCPA in 2009.
SC Ports volumes for the 2018 fiscal year, which ran July 2017 through June 2018, were record-breaking. The Port handled 2.2 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs), an increase of three percent over the previous fiscal year. March through June marked the highest months of container volume in the Port’s history. In breakbulk, or non-containerized cargo, Charleston handled 760,501 pier tons during FY2018. Within the breakbulk business segment, SCPA moved 232,390 vehicles across the docks of the Columbus Street Terminal.
Approximately 22 percent of the Port’s container cargo moves via intermodal rail including freight moving to Inland Port Greer which is 212 miles from Charleston in the upstate. The Greer facility achieved 117,812 rail moves in FY18. With the success of Inland Port Greer, SCPA opened Inland Port Dillon, in the northeastern part of the state, in April.
Key financial metrics include operating cash flow of $85 million and nearly $214 million in capital expenditures.
In addition to volume growth, SCPA achieved significant progress of key infrastructure projects in FY2018. The nearly three-year effort to strengthen and refurbish the Wando Welch Terminal wharf was completed in July, which allows the facility to handle three neo-Panamax ships at the same time. Construction on the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project to 52 feet, which began in February, is well underway with three Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Company dredges currently at work in the Entrance Channel. The Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal also saw progress in FY18 with the completion of the fill phase, and the SCPA Board approved a $53.8 million contract for construction of the wharf structure for phase one of the facility, which has begun. The new terminal will open in 2021 to accommodate growth of the Port’s containerized cargo business.
“We had a really good year in fiscal year 2018,” Newsome said. “We saw record cargo come through the Port, and we completed the Wando Welch Terminal refurbishment project. We worked together as a team towards a vision of being the preferred port of the top 10 U.S. Ports.”
Looking ahead, the Port will continue to invest heavily to accommodate container volume growth and the efficient handling of big ships. East Coast ports have seen a continued increase in container volumes since the Panama Canal expansion. A nearly $400 million enhancement project is underway at the Wando Welch Terminal. Upon completion, the facility will offer 15 ship-to-shore (STS) cranes with 155 feet of lift height; 65 rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes; 25 empty handlers; 40 gates; a dedicated chassis yard; and optimized operations allowing for a 2.4 million TEUs capacity.
Construction on the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project continues to progress, marking a historic accomplishment that will make Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast. Newsome announced today that an updated benefit-cost-ratio (BCR) of 3.1 was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which meets the requirements for inclusion in the President’s Budget. The BCR recalculation took several factors into account, highlighting the fact that SCPA’s projected volumes out-performed the estimates used in the original study.
Vital to the Port’s ability to sustain the volumes and revenue required for such investments is the expansion of its cargo base. SCPA closed on the purchase of a nearly 1,000-acre industrial tract in Ridgeville, South Carolina to support import distribution and export growth. The rail-served site offers approximately 750 developable acres for port-related industry use.
Along with investments in the Port’s terminals are enhancements to intermodal efficiency. Newsome said as the Port grows, it must intelligently expand its reach by rail and improve the condition of the chassis fleet through the creation of the Southern States Chassis Pool (SSCP).
“We talk all the time about equipment and investments, but investments alone do not lead us to a winning outcome,” said Newsome. “The best people lead to the best outcomes, and through cooperation and collaboration we have worked together to build this port up. Our future is very bright and our best years are ahead.”