With a $23-million improvement project at its Columbus Street Terminal completed, the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) is enjoying a surge in non-container cargo at the Port of Charleston.
The first major phase of the project to improve the storage yard and enhance rail infrastructure was finished in March. In those seven months, Columbus Street Terminal’s non-container cargo totaled 362,952 tons, a six-fold increase from 52,781 tons last year. The facility’s vehicle count for the seven-month period totaled 112,161 autos, compared to 58,856 in the port during the same period in 2010.
“Columbus Street Terminal has obviously become a critical asset for cargo operations,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA. “With great facilities, excellent oversize rail clearances and skilled labor, Columbus Street Terminal is one of the premier ro-ro, breakbulk and heavy lift terminals on the U.S. East Coast.”
Driven largely by the growth at Columbus Street, total breakbulk tonnage in the Port of Charleston is up nearly 80 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, which began July 1. The SCPA handled 234,232 pier tons of breakbulk and bulk cargo at its terminals in Charleston from July to September, up from 130,226 tons in the same period in 2010.
Calendar year-to-date, breakbulk tonnage is up 39 percent, with 609,674 tons handled in 2011 and 438,344 tons in 2010.
“Growth in the non-container segment is good for waterfront jobs, and it also provides a valuable service to major South Carolina employers and industries,” said Newsome, referring to the BMW exports and power generation shipments that are large users of Columbus Street Terminal.
Charleston’s container business also increased in September, totaling 125,032 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up 8.9 percent from August and up 17.6 percent from the same month last year. Container volume for the quarter (July through September) totaled 353,368 TEUs, the strongest quarter for the Port of Charleston since Q4 2008.
“These numbers are welcome news for our state and our maritime community,” said Newsome. “Exports are driving growth and there are good signs out there for outbound growth, yet it’s still a little unclear how far and fast the economy will go in the near-term.”
The Port of Georgetown’s business grew fivefold during the month of September over 2010, while tonnage for the fiscal year is up 379 percent. Georgetown volume totaled 43,419 tons in September and 112,701 tons in the first three months of the fiscal year, up from 8,596 tons in September 2010 and 23,537 pier tons in FY11.