Ports board votes to invest $2.6M in Chester County

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published June 18, 2014

The S.C. State Ports Authority board voted today to invest up to $2.6 million for public infrastructure in Chester County.

This comes two days after Giti Tire, a Singapore-based tire manufacturer, announced plans to build a $560 million manufacturing site and create about 1,700 jobs in Chester County. The Port of Charleston played a large role in recruiting the company to South Carolina, according to Giti’s executive chairman, Enki Tan.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy & Water Development Subcommittee passed the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill today that contains funding for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Feasibility Study and for the harbor deepening work. (Photo/file)

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Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said it is customary for the ports authority to contribute funds for economic development projects in the state.

Chester County sits along Interstate 77 between Charlotte and Columbia. The funds are not for a specific company’s site, but rather for access roads near industrial parks that several companies could benefit from, for example.

“This is an exciting project for the state,” Newsome said during the monthly board meeting. “The good news is that we do not only export tires. ... but since we don’t grow rubber in the U.S., we also import the raw materials. It’s a win for us both ways.”

The board also reported port statistics during the meeting. The Port of Charleston handled around 1.54 million 20-foot equivalent units, a common industry measurement, thus far in fiscal 2014, up 7% from the same period in 2013.

May was the port’s busiest month since March 2007 for pier container volumes, which track the number of boxes moved. Pier container volumes for May were up 15.4%, at about 91,900 containers, compared with May 2013.

“We had a really strong month in May,” Newsome said, noting that five ships called on the Port of Charleston on May 31.

For fiscal 2014 so far, from July through May, pier container volumes were up 6.5% at 870,000 pier containers compared with the same time in 2013.

Newsome also reported that the S.C. Inland Port secured another undisclosed customer, bringing the total to seven companies using the logistics hub in Greer.

The ports authority’s operating revenues for fiscal 2014 were $148.79 million as of May 31, up 16.2% from fiscal 2013. Total expenses were $134 million for fiscal 2014, up 15.6% from the year prior. Operating earnings were down 22.2% at $14.78 million.

Break-bulk tonnage was up 6.2%, at around 679,000 for fiscal 2014, the board reported.

About 177,000 passengers came to port, up 6.8%, and 1,670 ships docked during the period ended May 31, down less than 1% from last year.

Also of note, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy & Water Development Subcommittee passed the fiscal 2015 appropriations bill today that contains funding for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Feasibility Study and for the harbor deepening work.

The bill contains $695,000 for continuing the Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study of deepening Charleston Harbor, around $1.5 million for future harbor deepening construction, and $13.2 million for continued harbor operations and maintenance.

“I’m pleased my Republican and Democrat Senate colleagues understood the value of the Port of Charleston and fully funded the port even though the Corps of Engineers, as a whole, received a budget reduction,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of that subcommittee.

The bill goes to the full Appropriations Committee next week.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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