Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester Counties

Printed from

Port of Charleston

Since our founding in 1670, international commerce has been a key driver of the Charleston economy. With one of the world's most productive seaports, quick access to international air hubs in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, plus a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure, Charleston provides companies a seamless connection to world markets.

related information

Port OverviewGlobal BusinessSBA HUBZones

Seamless connection to world markets

The deepwater Port of Charleston efficiently handles fully-loaded Post-Panamax vessels and specialized non-container services, providing access to 18 of the top 20 ocean carriers in the U.S. container trade. Cited by customers as the most productive container port in the world, and ranked first in customer satisfaction across North America by readers of World Trade and Cargo Business News magazines, the Port of Charleston is a powerful magnet for manufacturing and distribution companies.

The Port of Charleston

  • A key economic engine for South Carolina, nearly $12 billion in wages and more than 260,000 jobs are related to the Port
  • Serves more than 150 countries worldwide
  • Offers a major competitive advantage with the deepest channels in the South Atlantic and project to deepen the harbor beyond 45 feet underway
  • Dual rail access and multiple Interstate connections
  • Construction underway for the only new, permitted port facility under construction on the U.S. East Coast
    • For a new three-berth, 280-acre container deepwater terminal
  • Distribution centers - 20 million+ square feet of prime industrial space in development near I-95 (30 miles / 48.3km from Port)
  • Currently the only port in the Southeastern U.S. efficiently handling fully-loaded post-Panamax vessels 8,000-9,000 TEU and larger. Post-Panamax ships visit the Charleston Port regularly and a next-generation harbor deepening project is underway in preparation for the Panama Canal's expansion in 2014
  • Charleston Port's five terminals are closer to the open sea than any competing port by a significant margin

Efficient & Productive

  • Average truck turn time is 21 minutes
  • Working container ships - an average 41 moves per hour per crane
  • Integrated rail and highway inland delivery systems providing fast access to the dynamic Southeastern U.S. population and manufacturing centers
  • Near-dock rail - Charleston is served by both CSX and Norfolk Southern class one rail carriers offering intermodal, boxcar, and hopper services
  • Four multi-purpose, rail-served facilities and access to a Charleston-based heavy lift barge crane (load capacity of 1 million pounds)
  • Dedicated non-container facilities handling specialized heavy lift, roll-on/roll-off, break-bulk and project cargo


  • ORION computer system expedites the cargo clearance process (most cleared up to three days prior to arrival)
  • Yard Management System provides up-to-date information on cargo shipments and more effectively makes use of the port's container yards
  • Security Technlogy
    • Radiation Portal Monitors scan 100% of containers leaving the terminal
    • VACIS machines screen targeted cargo on-site
    • The new OmniView Gantry X-ray Inspection System - the only one of its kind in use for commercial screening at ports - provides further screening capabilities for port security officials

Percentage of Total Volume

North Europe36%
Northeast Asia22%
India & Other Asia12%
South America East Coast6%
South America West Coast5%
Southeast Asia5%
Middle East4%
Central America2%
Source: South Carolina State Ports Authority, 6/2013

For information on individual Port terminals, Airports, Railways and Highways, visit the Intermodal Transportation section.

Global Business Development

South Carolina's export development team can help companies of all sizes identify potential markets and customers for their products and services through a number of proven export services.
  • The South Carolina Department of Commerce has two international offices:
    • SC European Office in Munich, Germany
    • SC Asian Office in Shanghai
  • Nearly 100 firms in the Charleston region are owned by parent companies outside the United States.
  • These firms represent about 22 countries and locally employ approximately 17,000.
  • South Carolina has one of the highest percentage of citizens working for internationally owned companies in the nation.

International Trade & Business Education

  • The Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina (about 100 miles from Charleston) offers the nation's top graduate and undergraduate programs in international business, according to US News & World Report.
  • The Center for International Education at the College of Charleston teaches students to address the challenges of an increasingly global market environment.
  • Trident Technical College offers associate degree programs in both international business and transportation/logistics. The college's International Education Office and Resource Center serves as an information resource for issues of global interest.
  • Through the globalMARKETS program, South Carolina high school students are introduced to the global economy, world cultures and careers in international trade.

Foreign Trade Zones

Companies involved in international trade can take advantage of nearly a dozen general-purpose sites within Foreign Trade Zone 21, comprising almost 8,000 acres (3,238 hectares) of space. The South Carolina State Ports Authority serves as the grantee of FTZ 21.

FTZs are restricted-access sites that allow businesses to store and process goods or raw materials duty and quota free until they're transported into the Customs territory of the United States or into another NAFTA country (Canada and Mexico).

The region's FTZ sites are conveniently located near the Port of Charleston, the most productive port in North America. The sites also allow for easy access to the region's expedient rail system and highway network.

Trade-Related Resources

The HUBZone Program is an initiative of the U.S. Small Business Administration with the mission to promote job growth, capital investment, and economic development to historically underutilized business zones. The SBA provides contracting assistance to small businesses located in the economically distressed communities, which are referred to as HUBZones.

The areas of the Charleston MSA that are qualified as HUBZones are indicated on this map.