The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) adopted a $248 million capital plan on June 13 that includes the allocation of $2.2 million for the expansion of Greer’s inland port.
The authority has allocated $1.6 million for the 2017 fiscal year and $600,000 for 2018. The SCPA hired Hamburg Port Consultants in the spring to study the port’s output and potential growth. The expansion’s design is uncertain until its completion in late 2016.
“It’s important that we study the process to maximize the efficiency of that operation,” said Jack Ellenburg, senior vice president of strategic projects. “It helps us choose the best route for accommodating growing cargo volumes. It could be a physical expansion or just an adjustment to the equipment used at the port. It all depends on the study.”
Despite the uncertainty, the authority has identified the inland port’s western side near Moore Street as an area for potential expansion. The port currently operates on about 40 acres. An expansion would increase operations to 70 acres. There are 100 total acres.
Greer’s inland port — located at 100 International Commerce Boulevard — opened in 2013 and is serviced by Norfolk Southern’s main rail line that runs along Interstate 85 between Charlotte and Atlanta. The port has 520 container slots and three gantry cranes.
Its customer base includes BMW, Michelin, Eastman Chemical, Adidas, Dollar Tree and more. The port generated a $26.8 billion economic impact in 2014, according to a study published by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.
The port handled 58,407 rail moves in FY2015. That number has continued to increase. Projected rail moves for FY2016, ending June 30, are 89,177. The Greer port is projected to handle about 110,000 rail movements in FY2017.
Greer’s success fueled the authority’s decision to allocate $5.1 million from its capital plan to the development of a second inland port in Dillon, S.C. The SCPA announced intentions for that port in the spring.
“While our discussions are preliminary, the success of Inland Port Greer demonstrates the market demand for additional intermodal hubs to support growing volumes of cargo moving to and from Charleston by rail,” said Jim Newsome, president of the SCPA.
The SCPA reported 260,000 international intermodal rail lifts through Charleston last year. Intermodal volume has increased 166 percent since 2011.
The port would offer access to the CSX main rail line, which could open access to intermodal markets in the Southeast and Midwest. It would also be near Interstate 95, which could open the port to significant cargo opportunities, according to Ellenburg.
“A second inland port in South Carolina would expand transportation options in the state, lowering shipping costs for South Carolina businesses and improving competitiveness,” said Dean Piacente, vice president of intermodal with CSX.
Piacente also said it would “generate substantial public benefits by creating jobs, spurring economic development and reducing traffic congestion on I-26 and I-95.”
Hamburg Port Consultants is studying the design, costs, footprint and construction timeline for the potential port in Dillon. It could be similar to Greer’s port.
“We’re using Greer as a model. We anticipate running the Dillon port very similarly if it’s built,” Ellenburg said. “I think its growth could mirror that of Greer’s port. But I don’t think we’ll see as much initial volume as we did in Greer.”
The SCPA plans to use its own capital investment as well as pursue federal infrastructure funding assistance through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to pay for the project.
“We believe that building intermodal infrastructure in our state goes hand-in-hand with the significant investments we are making to our port facilities in Charleston,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA.
The $248 million capital plan is the highest in the authority’s history. It also calls for multiple multimillion-dollar investments in its Charleston-based ports. The SCPA plans to invest $93.7 million in site development and related construction expenses for the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal that is expected to open in late 2019.
The plan also calls for $78.9 million upgrades to Wando Welch Terminal in Mt. Pleasant and $16 million surface improvements to the Columbus Street Terminal.
For more information, visit www.scspa.com.