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Work begins on $550M South Carolina Ports projects

Distribution & Logistics
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The Navy Base Intermodal Facility is set to open in July 2025. (Rendering/SCPA)

South Carolina Ports will soon have near-dock rail and an inner-harbor barge operation to ensure fluidity and capacity for the Southeast supply chain.

SC Ports officials and elected officials gathered this week in North Charleston to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Navy Base Intermodal Facility, according to an SC Ports news release. SC Ports is developing the rail-served intermodal yard to provide near-dock rail to the Port of Charleston.

“This resolves the last remaining competitive disadvantage we have as a major East Coast container port,” SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin said in the release. “This critical infrastructure project will greatly enhance SC Ports’ capacity, allowing imports and exports to swiftly move between the hinterland and the Port of Charleston.”

The Navy Base Intermodal Facility sits about one mile from Leatherman Terminal, according to the release. Containers will be moved to and from the Leatherman Terminal on a dedicated road. Inside the intermodal yard, rail-mounted gantry cranes will lead containers on and off trains.

In partnership with Palmetto Railways, Class I railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern will utilize SC Ports’ state-of-the-art rail yard to further enhance rail competitiveness, the release stated. Nearly 80,000 feet of rail track will create a capacity of 1 million rail lifts in Phase 1.

The Navy Base Intermodal Facility will also further enhance SC Ports' rail-served Inland Ports in Greer and Dillon, the release stated.

SC Ports’ inner-harbor barge operation will support the Navy Base Intermodal Facility by moving containers between Wando Welch Terminal and Leatherman Terminal via a designated marine highway. This creative solution addresses trucking capacity as more cargo continues to flow through SC Ports, according to the release.

“The inner-harbor barge operation and innovative rail yard will add critical capacity to our port market,” Melvin said in the release. “These investments will further support our customers’ supply chains and attract additional cargo to our port, supporting job creation throughout South Carolina.”

The South Carolina Legislature and Governor Henry McMaster have allocated a total of $550 million to fully fund these projects — $400 million for the rail yard and $150 million for the barge operation, the release stated.

“We are so grateful to our state leaders for their bold vision and for understanding what South Carolina’s businesses need to be successful,” Melvin said. “Because of their support, our strategic investments in critical port infrastructure will yield dividends to South Carolina for decades to come.”

These projects, which are slated to open in July 2025, will complement the more than $2 billion SC Ports has already invested in its infrastructure and operations to remain competitive as a top 10 U.S. container port, according to the release.

“South Carolina Ports is widely known as a top driver of our state’s booming economy, but that success doesn’t come overnight or by accident — it takes timely, strategic investment and innovative leadership,” McMaster said. “The latest investment in the Navy Base Intermodal Facility is the next step towards growing not only the Port of Charleston, but our state’s economy as a whole.”

Reach Jason at 864-568-7570.

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