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Port leadership confident going into 2020

Staff //December 19, 2019//

Port leadership confident going into 2020

Staff //December 19, 2019//

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The S.C. Ports Authority reported year-over-year growth in November. (Photo/file)

The S.C. Ports Authority continued to see year-over-year growth in November, with port leaders confident in their strategy going into the next decade.

The port handled 184,928 TEUs — an industry measurement equivalent to a 20-foot container — at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals in November, down slightly from the record 188,585 TEUs moved in November 2018. Still, the S.C. Ports Authority has moved a total of 1.04 million TEUs since the fiscal year began in July, a 6% increase year over year.

Measured by the total number of boxes handled, the port moved 104,324 pier containers last month, bringing the total to 588,873 this fiscal year. That’s up 4.5% from this point last year.

The port also handled 63,252 breakbulk pier tons in November, up 28% year over year, and 19,933 vehicle imports and exports at Columbus Street Terminal, up 17% year over year.

Looking away from the coast, Inland Port Greer reported 9,370 rail moves in November, bringing the fiscal year total to 63,884, for a year-over-year increase of 24.1%.

Inland Port Dillon, now in its second year of operation, reported 2,410 rail moves last month, bringing its fiscal year total to 13,561. Inland Port Dillon’s fiscal year total is up 44.7% year over year but is 18.6% short of the ports authority’s plan.

Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the S.C. Ports Authority, said the port expects continuing uncertainty in the world economy, “but our strong position in the Southeast and proximity to a booming consumer market will drive growth.”

“We expect to grow above the market as more cargo shifts from West Coast to East Coast ports,” Newsome said. He added, “Trade war or not, we continue on the path that we have orchestrated.”

‘Momentous infrastructure investments’

The ports authority board unanimously re-elected its officers for the next two years, meaning Bill Stern will remain board chairman, Dave Posek will remain vice chairman, Kurt Grindstaff remains treasurer and Willie Jeffries remains secretary.

“We appreciate the board’s continued support of our investments that enable us to service some of the biggest ships in the world,” Newsome said. “This next year is critical as we progress on our momentous infrastructure investments,” including the completion of the Leatherman terminal and the deepening of Charleston Harbor to 52 feet. Both projects are expected to be completed in 2021.

The harbor deepening project is slated to receive $138 million when the federal budget passes; it is currently pending approval by the Senate and the signature of President Donald Trump, with a deadline of Friday to avoid a government shutdown. The president included the funding in his initial budget proposal earlier this year.

Barbara Melvin, COO of the ports authority, said work on the Leatherman terminal is progressing on schedule. “The site work is like watching an ant farm,” she said, and with the recent pouring of the first deck on the wharf, “it looks more and more like a terminal every day.”

“It is like juggling plates for our engineers that are located on site … but we are seeing progress,” Melvin said.

Progress is also being made on the production of ship-to-shore cranes for the Leatherman terminal in Shanghai. The cranes, produced by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., will be the ports authority’s tallest at 169 feet.

Walter Lagarenne, director of engineering and permitting for the port, said the first four cranes for the Leatherman terminal are scheduled to arrive in June. Another crane will arrive in August, along with three 155-foot cranes for the Wando Terminal.

Newsome said the Leatherman terminal will be the first greenfield terminal built in the United States since 2009.