The S.C. Ports Authority saw record cargo volumes, rail moves and inland port activity in the 2019 fiscal year, breaking records set last year.
The ports authority’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
TEUs: The port handled nearly 2.4 million TEUs, a common industry measurement representing 20-foot equivalent boxes, in fiscal 2019. That was an 8.8% increase from the 2018 fiscal year.
Empty containers: According to statistics provided by the port, 548,844 TEUs that were moved last fiscal year were empty, up 32% from the 2018 fiscal year.
Total boxes: Measured by the total number of boxes handled, the port moved 112,988 pier containers in June, a 2.3% decrease over June 2018. The port handled a total of 1.36 million pier containers over the course of the fiscal year, up 9.1%.
Vehicles: The port handled 18,307 vehicles at Columbus Street Terminal in June, for a total of 194,771 vehicles over the course of the year. Total break-bulk cargo was 625,323 pier tons for the fiscal year, a 17.8% drop.
Greer: Inland Port Greer reported its busiest fiscal year yet with 143,204 rail moves in the 2019 fiscal year, up nearly 22% from last year. The inland port reported 14,689 rail moves last month.
Dillon: Inland Port Dillon, in its first full year of business, handled around 30,000 rail moves in the 2019 fiscal year.
RapidRail: The port’s RapidRail program, which provides connection between rail yards and marine terminals, saw more than 330,000 rail moves in the 2019 fiscal year. The port handles 24% of containerized volumes by intermodal container rail.
Cruise passengers: Charleston saw 213,081 cruise passengers in the 2019 fiscal year, 7,600 fewer than projected and a 5.5% decrease over last year.
“SCPA’s container business had a record-setting fiscal year, and our inland ports in Greer and Dillon continue to see record growth year over year,” ports authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a news release. “This accomplishment is the result of the entire South Carolina maritime community’s dedication to providing a great product to our customers.”
The S.C. Ports Authority board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the issuance of $400 million in revenue bonds to fund growth at the port.
The new debt will fund planned capital expenditures for the next four fiscal years, including the construction of the new Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal in North Charleston and its access road and the finalizing of the Wando Welch Terminal refurbishment project.
If the port goes through with the bond sales, the total outstanding bond debt will be around $1.35 billion.
The board also authorized up to $125 million in bond refunding that would be used to pay off specific 2015 and 2018 maturities. Port CFO Phil Padgett said this would provide savings to the ports authority, similar to refinancing a home at a lower interest rate. The port will decide whether to move forward with the refunding in the next few months.
Additionally, the board approved the purchase of 25 new hybrid rubber-tired gantry cranes for the Leatherman terminal. The $44.3 million contract with Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. includes design, fabrication, transportation, erection and final commissioning of the cranes.