S.C. Ports Authority reports record volume for 2017 calendar year

SCPA's inland port in Spartanburg County near Greer experienced a 20.4 percent increase in rail moves during the year, a new record for the facility.

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The 2017 calendar year was full of milestones for the state Ports Authority and more growth is anticipated in 2018.

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) announced Thursday, Jan. 18, that its inland port in Spartanburg County completed a record 124,817 rail moves during the 2017 calendar year.

That was a 20.4 percent increase in volume for the facility near Greer, compared with 103,639 rail moves during 2016.

Growth at the inland port helped SCPA achieve a new annual volume record of 2.2 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs), surpassing the previous record of 2 million TEUs reported for 2016.

“Global container trade growth was the strongest it has been since 2010, mirroring surprising strength in the global economy,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of SCPA. “We expect to see continued strength, albeit slightly more modest, into 2018 with growth emerging market economies as a key factor in sustaining this positive outlook.”

SCPA’s record year was capped off by a strong December that saw the Port of Charleston move 182,884 TEUs, an 11.2 percent increase compared with the previous December and the highest tally ever recorded for the month.

The inland port handled 7,646 rail moves during the month, the agency said.

SCPA said its Charleston breakbulk facilities handled 75,316 pier tons in December and a total of 783,363 tons for the year.

The agency said nearly 235,000 finished vehicles moved across the dock of its Columbus Street Terminal in 2017. BMW, which operates a 6 million-square-foot assembly plant in Spartanburg County, is the largest user of that terminal, SCPA said in 2016.

SCPA said it made progress on several projects aimed at increasing its capacity and furthering the capabilities of its operations.

Those projects include construction of the Leatherman Terminal and the groundbreaking of its second inland port in Dillon County, which is expected to open in April.

SCPA began construction of its new corporate office next to its Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant and said it “made strong progress” on the final phase of its Wando Terminal Warf Strengthening Project. The strengthening project will be completed in the spring in conjunction with the delivery of two new 155-foot ship-to-shore cranes, the agency said.

The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project also moved forward, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the first two construction contracts of $47 million and $213 million to deepen the entrance channel of the Charleston Harbor. The project will deepen the harbor’s existing entrance from 47 to 54 feet. The harbor’s main channel will eventually be deepened to 52 feet from its current depth of 45 feet.

“With significant completion expected by the end of 2020, Charleston will offer a wide and deep harbor, enabling SCPA to handle the biggest ships calling the East Coast and support the growth of commerce in the state and region well into the future,” the agency said in a statement.

SCPA said its operations support 187,200 jobs across the state and generate about $53 million in annual economic activity.

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