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Port sees mostly flat volumes in Q1

Distribution & Logistics
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Port CEO Jim Newsome expects a growing manufacturing sector and population to boost cargo volumes in Charleston. (Photo/Liz Segrist)Global trade growth continues to be moderate with around 5% growth forecast for the remainder of the year, down from the double-digit growth seen in 2015.

The economic slowdown has created mostly flat cargo volumes at the Port of Charleston for the first quarter of fiscal 2017, from July through September. Some cargo volumes declined.

For fiscal 2017, around 520,000 TEUs — a common industry measurement representing a 20-foot equivalent of a shipping container — came through the port, up 1.4% from the same time a year ago. September saw around 163,000 pier containers come through, down 3% from the September 2015.

Fiscal year 2017 Q1 port results

Description

FY17 results
so far

Percent change from Q1 2016

Total TEUs

520,276

1.4%

Rail TEUs

121,146

-1.7%

Charleston breakbulk cargo

217,533
(pier tons)

-8.5%

Vehicles

64,361

-9.7%

Cruise passengers

49,958

0.7%

Operating revenues

$55.3 million

1.6%

Operating expenses

$43.9 million

4.3%

Operating earnings

$11.4 million

-7.5%

The beginning of fiscal 2017 started off relatively strong, and loaded import and export containers remain solid, up 4% overall in September. But empty containers coming in and out of the port continue to lag, down 28% last month. Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said he is not sure why empty container volumes are declining.

Newsome said he continues to be concerned about the overall trade economy, but sees positive movement in the export market.

Newsome said the Southeast port market remains poised to grow double the size of the U.S. port market as more manufacturers locate in the region to boost exports and population growth contributes to a rise in imports. He hopes to see buoyed volumes at the port during the second quarter.

The port shut down operations for four days during Hurricane Matthew earlier this month. Newsome said he does not expect a major dip in volumes for October since all but one ship came through the port following the storm. Those cargo volumes will not be released until the November board meeting.

Four empty containers were damaged by the Category 1 hurricane. No other damage was incurred at the terminals.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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