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Port volumes strong despite virus disruptions

Distribution & Logistics
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Cargo volumes set a record in February. (Photo/Patrick Hoff

The S.C. Ports Authority recorded the highest February cargo volumes and rail moves ever last month despite concerns that the new coronavirus could impact supply chains.

The port moved 197,214 TEUs — an industry measurement equivalent to a 20-foot container — at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals last month, for a 10.7% increase over February 2019. The S.C. Ports Authority has handled a total of 1.64 million TEUs this fiscal year, which started July 1.

Measured by the total number of boxes, the port moved 110,927 pier containers in February, a 10.1% year-over-year increase. This brings the port’s fiscal year total to 924,526 pier containers.

Total vehicle volumes are also up 26% year over year, with 18,156 vehicles moved at the Columbus Street Terminal in February and 149,340 vehicles moved since July 1.

The two inland ports also saw record activity in February, with Inland Port Greer reporting 13,749 rail moves and Inland Port Dillon reporting 3,068 rail moves. That’s a 22.3% year-over-year increase for Greer and 14.1% increase for Dillon.

“These volumes are bright spots amid much uncertainty in the global market,” Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the S.C. Ports Authority, said in a news release.

Newsome said in a statement that although February volumes were up year over year, he expects container volumes to be down about 15% to 20% in March and April versus the port’s business plan because of COVID-19.

The impact, he said, is largely dependent on when workers can return to factories, though Newsome anticipates a rebound of volumes in May and June to finish the fiscal year above plan, “barring any unforeseen worsening of the situation.”

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