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Little Time for Reflection as Charleston Ports Agency Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Posted on February 28, 2017

By David Wren, The Post and Courier

As the State Ports Authority gets ready to mark its 75th anniversary Sunday, the agency that operates the Port of Charleston is about to set another milestone — the arrival of its first container ship carrying 14,000 cargo boxes, known as TEUs in maritime jargon.

“We will have a 14,000 TEU ship in May,” said Jim Newsome, the SPA’s chief executive officer. “That will be the first time we’ve ever seen a ship of that size.”

TEU is shorthand for “twenty-foot equivalent unit,” an inexact measurement of the metal boxes full of goods carried by container ships. Vessels carrying 14,000 TEUs are among the largest sailing today.

The first ship of that size to visit Charleston likely will be one operated by the Ocean Alliance — a consortium of shipping lines including COSCO, CMA CGM, Evergreen and Orient Overseas. The alliance plans to use that class of ship — called a Post Panamax vessel because it would have been too large to get through the Panama Canal before a recent expansion of the waterway — on weekly visits to Charleston.

Once a project to raise the Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey is completed later this year, Newsome said he expects the 2M Alliance, a consortium of Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping, will add a second weekly service to Charleston featuring a similar-size vessel. The bridge is currently too low to let Post Panamax ships access the Port of New York and New Jersey, and shipping lines have been reluctant to deploy those vessels on East Coast routes until the span is raised.

The arrival of big ships comes as the SPA is moving forward with a plan to dredge Charleston Harbor to 52 feet, giving Charleston the deepest shipping channel on the East Coast and allowing Post Panamax vessels to visit at any time, regardless of tides.

The project has been authorized by Congress and the assistant secretary of the U.S. Army recently transmitted notification to the House and Senate of the SPA’s plan to enter into a project partnership agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers. Both chambers of Congress have to accept that plan for it to move forward. So far, the Senate has acknowledged and accepted the notification without issues. The House is expected to do the same.

“In layman’s terms, it sets out the funding for the project and states that we are ready to spend the money that we have,” Newsome said.

Source: The Post and Courier

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