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Port of Charleston Poised to Take Advantage of Panama Canal Expansion

August 12, 2016

When the 1,102-foot-long Hannover Bridge sailed into the Port of Charleston on July 16, it marked a major milestone for the local maritime industry. It was the first “post-Panamax” ship to stop in Charleston | SC | USA since the completion of the $5.25 billion widening of the Panama Canal in June.

It may have been the first, but it won’t be the last. The larger class of vessels is expected to become routine in the Charleston region, which has the deepest harbor in the South Atlantic and is already handling ships that are more than 1,100-feet-long and 150-feet wide with drafts up to 48 feet. The bigger ships now account for more than half of the port’s annual traffic.

With the larger ships now able to pass through the canal, the Port of Charleston is well-positioned to capitalize on the new wave of traffic from the Pacific to the Atlantic and gain market share on West Coast ports in terms of imports coming directly from China and other Asian countries. The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) is embarking on a massive $1.6 billion expansion to attract the super freighters into Charleston. This includes two new 155-feet cranes, which extend 40 feet higher and enable the Port to handle ships carrying 14,000 TEUs. The cranes arrived on Friday, will be operational by November, and two more will be added by December 2017.

What competitive advantages does the Port of Charleston offer companies entering the U.S. market?

  • Booming manufacturing economy: Already serving more than 150 countries worldwide, the Port of Charleston continues to grow its share of global trade thanks to international investment in the region. Brookings ranks Charleston 9th among top U.S. metros for foreign direct investment intensity. Multinationals like Mercedes-Benz Vans, Robert Bosch, and Volvo cite the port as a key factor in choosing to expand in the Charleston region.
  • Proximity to customers: In addition to the Port of Charleston, companies with logistics operations benefit from the region’s integrated transportation network that allows shipments to reach most domestic markets within 48 hours. More than one-fifth of the U.S. population resides within a day’s drive of the Charleston metro area.
  • Seamless connectivity: SC Ports offers an Inland Port Container facility in Greer, S.C., which connects to the Port of Charleston by an overnight rail route. It extends Charleston’s reach 212 miles inland and provides access to 94 million consumers within a one-day drive.


To learn more about the Charleston region’s advantages for global logistics, click here.



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