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Business is booming at South Carolina Ports Authority

Charleston Post and Courier
David Slade
May 18, 2011

More cargo, more cruise ships, and more cash — that’s the short version of how the South Carolina Ports Authority’s year is going financially.

The SPA reported Tuesday that its container volume increased 10 percent during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, while breakbulk volume at the Charleston and Georgetown ports increased 40 percent over the prior year.

Container volume, breakbulk, and also the number of cruise ship passengers seen in Charleston were all running ahead of projections for the fiscal year, which runs through June.

Breakbulk is non-containerized cargo, including BMW vehicles manufactured in the Upstate.

From July 2010 through April, the ports handled 666,831 containers and 773,000 tons of breakbulk cargo.

The SPA’s fiscal-year-to-date operating earnings, at $15.5 million, were running nearly 25 percent ahead of expectations for the fiscal year, and 130 percent ahead of the last fiscal year.

The cruise ship business has played a role, now accounting for about 7 percent of SPA revenues. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Carnival Fantasy’s first sailing from Charleston after Carnival decided to use the city as a year-round home port.

The financial report came at an SPA board meeting where two projects were approved:

–A $536,425 contract was approved with B.I.G. Enterprises to provide five prefabricated buildings that will be used as guard and security buildings at the North Charleston, Columbus Street and Veterans terminals. Federal port security grants are covering 75 percent of the cost.

–The board approved a project to adjust timber fenders at the cruise ship terminal on Union Pier, to provide a larger cushion between ships and a passenger loading bridge. Salmons Dredging of Charleston was recommended for the $197,764 job.

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