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Distribution & Logistics

2020 brings fewer pier containers, more pier tons through port

Distribution & Logistics
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Overall, 2.32 million 20-foot equivalent container units were handled at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals in fiscal 2020 — a 2.8% drop from the past fiscal year. (Photo/File)

Thanks to strong import numbers from July 2019 to January of this year, the S.C. Ports Authority concluded the 2020 fiscal year with steady volumes, despite some losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic impacted businesses across the board, and our volumes reflect that. We hope to see continued recovery as we begin fiscal year 2021,” Jim Newsome, CEO and president of the S.C. Ports Authority, said in a news release. “We have an incredibly well-run port located in the thriving Southeast market. We plan to continue growing and diversifying our cargo base with retail goods imports and transload exports, such as forest products and agricultural goods.”

Overall, 2.32 million 20-foot equivalent container units were handled at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals in fiscal 2020 — a 2.8% drop from the past fiscal year, according to the release.

The port system moved 1.32 million pier containers, down 3.4% from the prior year, but saw a 2.5% increase in motor vehicle imports, as 199,825 vehicles rolled across the dock of the Columbus Street Terminal during the 2020 fiscal year. Numbers began to rebound in June after automotive plants resumed production in May.

The 2020 fiscal year also brought a boost in pier tons and cruise passenger numbers. The port of Charleston handled almost 641,000 pier tons for the year, a 2.5% increase from 2019’s numbers, according to the news release.

Despite COVID-19’s devastation of the cruise industry after March, 217,673 cruise passengers came through the Charleston port throughout the year, an increase of 2.2% year over year.

Greer’s inland port reported a 2.1% decrease in shipments during the 2020 fiscal year, with 140,155 rail moves. Dillon’s Inland Port, on the other hand, reached its best fiscal year and June volumes at 32,453 rail moves during the year — a 9.7% year-over-year increase — and 2,696 last month, according to the release.

“Our inland ports are an excellent success story for S.C. Ports and South Carolina,” COO Barbara Melvin said in the release. “The inland ports provide crucial speed to market for cargo owners. Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon also extend our reach beyond the waterfront, ensuring we are a port for the entire state.”

The S.C. Ports system reported 58 blanked sailings — instances where a vessel does not arrive during the scheduled time or is rescheduled — for the 2020 fiscal year and 14 blank sailings since the beginning of this month.

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