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SC Ports eyes 5 million TEU capacity boost in Charleston

Posted on March 25, 2024

South Carolina Ports (SC Ports) has announced plans to buy the former WestRock paper mill site in North Charleston to boost the Port of Charleston’s capacity.

The SC Ports Board of Directors approved on 19 March to proceed with a purchase and sale agreement with WestRock. The transaction is planned to close as soon as possible.

SC Ports President and CEO, Barbara Melvin, said: “The tremendous backing from our state and an excellent partnership with WestRock allows us to make investments today that will support our state’s economy and create opportunities for future generations of South Carolinians.

“We are adding significant port capacity to support growth in South Carolina and throughout the Southeast.”

The approximately 280-acre industrial waterfront site is adjacent to the North Charleston Terminal, providing a natural expansion of the container terminal and allowing SC Ports to handle more cargo for port-dependent enterprises.

The extra land aims to increase the port’s ability to carry 5 million TEU in the future, resulting in 5,000 feet of linear berth space for containerships and about 400 acres of terminal area for cargo.

Melvin added: “This is an incredible opportunity to enhance our high-performing North Charleston Terminal with renewed capacity to handle future growth.”

SC Ports plans to modernise the existing North Charleston Terminal with an optimised layout, upgraded cargo-handling equipment and significant new container capacity – yielding even more reliable, productive port service.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is playing an important role in the project. As part of the Interstate 526 extension, the Department intends to rebuild the Don Holt Bridge, removing height restrictions for larger vessels.

According to SC Ports, plans have been made to attain a 52-foot depth up to the North Charleston Terminal.

The Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reportedly conducting a feasibility study, which is an important first step towards deepening this segment of the Cooper River by 5 feet.

This deepening work, together with the additional bridge height, will enable the largest containerships calling at the Port of Charleston to reach North Charleston Terminal.

Melvin highlighted: “Modernising the terminal, raising the Don Holt Bridge, deepening the Cooper River and purchasing the former WestRock property are all critical components that will yield a state-of-the-art North Charleston Terminal.”

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear a South Carolina coastal port dispute between the state and dockworkers at the Port of Charleston’s Leatherman Terminal.


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