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S.C. ports authority approves FY17 plan, $248M for projects

Distribution & Logistics
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The S.C. State Ports Authority approved its largest-ever capital plan as part of the new fiscal year 2017 financial plan, including money for terminal improvements. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

The S.C. State Ports Authority board unanimously approved the highest capital plan in the port’s history when it unanimously passed its fiscal year 2017 financial plan on Wednesday.

The board approved projections of spending $248 million for capital expenditures, which is about $83 million higher than fiscal year 2016.

Among other projects, the ports authority plans to invest roughly:

  • $94 million in site development and other expenses to build the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, which is expected to open in late 2019 on the old Navy base in North Charleston.
  • $80 million in upgrades to the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant to make the terminal ready for bigger ships.
  • $16 million in surface improvements to the Columbus Street Terminal, which is slowly sinking over time as it was built on an infill site.
  • $5.1 million for the development of a second inland port in Dillon, which sits off Interstate 95 and will accompany the first inland port in Greer.

The financial plan projects 6% growth in pier containers, or box volume, with about 1.175 million pier containers coming through the port; the port is expected to handle 1.1 million boxes this fiscal year.

While the trend of larger ships on order and the Panama Canal expansion are expected to slowly impact cargo volumes during fiscal 2017, the global economy has slowed trade worldwide and impacted Charleston port volumes.

“Our volumes this fiscal year have flattened when compared to FY2015, and although we expect growth to continue to keep pace above the U.S. port market average, the plan for FY2017 reflects modest increases in pier container volumes,” Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a statement.

The port also plans operating revenues of $226.1 million for fiscal year 2017. This is a projected 7% increase above the current fiscal year’s operating revenues, which are expected to reach $211.8 million by June 30. The plan also anticipates $40.8 million for operating earnings.

Additionally, strong growth is expected to continue at the S.C. Inland Port in Greer. The fiscal year 2017 plan anticipates 109,000 rail moves, a 23% increase over fiscal year 2016 projected totals.

Cargo numbers

The port had around 100,000 pier containers come through its terminals in May, up about 13% from April and down 3% from May 2015.

More than 1 million pier containers, up 1% from last year, and 832,000 tons of break-bulk cargo, up 6.6%, have been handled at the Port of Charleston thus far in fiscal 2016, which is from July through May.

The port has handled 1.79 million 20-foot equivalent units this fiscal year, up 2.3% from the same period last year. TEUs are the common industry measurement that counts every 20 feet worth of container.

The ports authority reported nearly $34 million in operating earnings for the fiscal year, up 10% from the same time a year ago. As of May 31, the port had $160 million in total expenses and $194 million for operating revenues.

In fiscal 2016, more than 1,700 ships have docked at the port and 196,000 passengers have come through the port.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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