Posted on October 24, 2022
South Carolina Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin delivered her first State of the Port address, sharing her vision to continue succeeding as the eighth-largest container port in the country by investing in operations, infrastructure and people.
Melvin delivered her address to more than 1,100 attendees at The Propeller Club’s annual event in Charleston. Attendees included Gov. Henry McMaster, elected leaders, SC Ports Board members, port customers, community partners and maritime officials.
Melvin highlighted SC Ports’ operations and successful fluidity measures. She stressed the importance of investing in key port infrastructure to remain competitive. She thanked the maritime community for their dedication, recognizing that their hard work is essential to the port’s success.
“Our growth is made possible because of the unrivaled support we receive from Gov. McMaster, the General Assembly, the congressional delegation and many elected leaders and community partners,” Melvin said.
“Our board of directors and leadership team give us the ability to make bold investments. Our valued customers enable our growth. And without a doubt, our success is possible because we have most talented port team and maritime community in the country.”
SC Ports had its most successful fiscal year in its history, handling 2.85 million TEUs in fiscal year 2022, a 12% increase from the year prior. SC Ports set records for 11 of the 12 months.
This growth occurred while navigating tremendous challenges in the global supply chain. South Carolina’s maritime community quickly adapted to keep freight moving for shippers and cargo owners.
SC Ports implemented creative berthing measures, reduced dwell times, improved motor carrier turn times, enhanced intermodal movements to and from rail terminals, opened gates seven days a week for motor carriers, hired more than 150 people in operations and utilized its two rail-served inland ports.
SC Ports has invested $200 million into its new port-owned and port-operated SMART Pool to enhance the availability, reliability and quality of chassis.
The SMART Pool will deploy 13,000 chassis into the Southeast port market through next spring; more than 4,300 chassis are already on the road.
“Challenging times call for creative solutions. We had to be flexible, adaptable and responsive to our customers’ needs to restore fluidity to Southeast supply chains,” Melvin said. “Because of the amazing effort from our team and partners, we have maintained berth availability and terminal capacity since early May. We are the only major East Coast port without ships waiting to access our terminals.”
SC Ports has demonstrated its reliability for customers in the booming Southeast market.
SC Ports continues to grow with retail and e-commerce imports, while anchoring its advanced manufacturing cargo base.
To better support exporters, SC Ports offers an export receiving window to provide more stability and reliability for agricultural and manufacturing exporters, among others.
To better support importers, SC Ports offers operations and on-terminal transload facilities, as well as near-port import distribution centers and cold storage facilities with ample capacity to efficiently handle retail goods, furniture, and refrigerated and frozen foods.
Investing in infrastructure
With record growth and demand, strategic investments into critical port infrastructure will ensure SC Ports remains a world-class port system.
SC Ports has invested more than $2 billion into key port infrastructure to remain a top 10 U.S. container port.
Phase One of Leatherman Terminal adds an additional berth to the East Coast. Wando Welch Terminal has been modernized to handle three 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously. Inland Port Greer is undergoing an expansion to enhance cargo and rail capacity.
The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, which is fully funded by state and federal dollars, makes Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District will complete the project this fall, enabling SC Ports to handle mega container ships any time, any tide.
“We have made smart investments to expand and enhance operations, which has proven critical as we seamlessly handle bigger ships and record cargo volumes,” Melvin said. “We are boldly investing in port infrastructure to grow our port system and further support port-dependent businesses in South Carolina and beyond.”
Capacity for the future
SC Ports is now embarking on the next generation of infrastructure to provide capacity and fluidity for decades to come.
McMaster and the legislature are investing $550 million into a new rail-served intermodal yard and inner-harbor barge operation, ensuring South Carolina remains globally competitive.
Construction has started on the Navy Base Intermodal Facility, which will bring near-dock rail to the Port of Charleston, resolving the last major competitive disadvantage SC Ports has a major East Coast container port.
In partnership with Palmetto Railways, CSX and Norfolk Southern will utilize the Navy Base Intermodal Facility, which sits one mile from Leatherman Terminal. Phase One will have the capacity for 1 million rail lifts, enhancing rail competitiveness and attracting new business.
SC Ports will also develop an inner-harbor barge operation to transport containers between Wando Welch Terminal and Leatherman Terminal. This operation addresses trucking capacity and supports the efficient movement of cargo.
“With an eye to the future, we continue to invest in our capacity,” Melvin said. “With SC Ports’ excellent operations, modern infrastructure and remarkable maritime community, we know more growth is on the horizon. We boldly step forward to create a brighter future and new opportunities for generations of South Carolinians to come.”
South Carolina Ports Authority, established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport and intermodal facilities in Charleston, Dillon, Georgetown and Greer. As an economic development engine for the state, Port operations facilitate 225,000 statewide jobs and generate nearly $63.4 billion in annual economic activity.
SC Ports is soon to be home to the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet. SC Ports is an industry leader in delivering speed-to-market, seamless processes and flexibility to ensure reliable operations, big ship handling, efficient market reach and environmental responsibility.