During her second State of the Port address, South Carolina Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin showcased how SC Ports is a powerhouse port, serving as a powerful alternative gateway for cargo owners seeking a well-run port in the thriving Southeast market, a South Carolina Port Authority news release stated.
With more than $3 billion invested into port infrastructure, SC Ports is positioned to be the preferred port on the U.S. East Coast, the release stated.
While addressing a packed room of more than 800 people, Melvin announced that SC Ports will add at least 2 million TEUs of additional capacity at the Port of Charleston by modernizing North Charleston Terminal, making it comparable to Wando Welch Terminal, according to the release.
With upgraded cargo-handling equipment and an optimized terminal layout, the already-efficient container terminal offers future growth potential, the release stated.
“We have the opportunity to enhance North Charleston Terminal and add capacity to an already-deepened asset to further support our customers’ supply chains,” Melvin said in the release.
As part of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, the Cooper River has been deepened up to North Charleston Terminal. This depth, combined with the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s plans to replace the Don Holt Bridge on Interstate 526, sets the stage for the modernization of North Charleston Terminal, the release stated.
“A taller bridge and deepened harbor can accommodate larger vessels, and enhanced terminal capacity will drive growth,” Melvin said in the release. “The South Carolina Department of Transportation is playing a pivotal role in this vision. We are excited to see this critical highway infrastructure project benefit the people who live here, as well as the businesses that depend on the port. These investments will support SC companies’ growth well into the future.”
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SC Ports has strategically invested in critical capacity and capabilities, while continuing to provide reliable service and efficient operations to keep freight moving in the supply chain, the release stated.
“We are experts at quickly working ships for ocean carriers and efficiently moving cargo for the businesses who entrust us to expertly handle their goods,” Melvin said. “We provide the service, speed and connectivity that our customers depend on to thrive.”
Cargo continues to flow from the U.S. West Coast to the U.S. East Coast port market, as companies seek predictability, reliability and access to the Southeast.
The Southeast market is booming, with more people moving into the region and businesses investing in new or expanding operations, the release stated. Even as manufacturing and retail imports have declined across the U.S., the Southeast market continues to thrive with an influx of new residents and industrial growth.
“Port-dependent companies are investing in new operations, including advanced manufacturers, EV and battery manufacturers, solar panel producers, retailers, e-commerce sellers and import distribution centers,” Melvin said. “We have capacity for your supply chain, and as an operating port, we provide unmatched service to propel your supply chain.”
Investing for the future
With the ongoing growth in the Southeast, SC Ports is actively building port capacity and rail capabilities with the new Navy Base Intermodal Facility in North Charleston, the release stated.
Significant progress has been made over the past year to prepare the site for new cargo-handling equipment, buildings and rail tracks, the release stated. The state-of-the-art cargo yard will be served by CSX and Norfolk Southern when it opens in July 2025.
This near-port intermodal operation will further speed goods to market, alongside a future barge operation that will transport containers between port terminals.
“These critical infrastructure projects are made possible by $550 million in state funding,” Melvin said. “The South Carolina Legislature and Governor McMaster understand the key role our port plays in driving our state’s economy. When our port grows, our state thrives.”
SC Ports is also expanding rail-served Inland Port Greer to handle customer growth in the Upstate over the past decade, the release stated. The expansion involves doubling cargo capacity and enhancing rail capabilities.
In the Lowcountry, Charleston now boasts the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet, capable of seamlessly handling fully loaded vessels at any tide.
SC Ports has also invested in its ro-ro and breakbulk operation and high-performing container terminals in Charleston, the release sated.
The modernized Wando Welch Terminal offers 15 155-foot-tall ship-to-shore cranes, giving each berth five ship-to-shore cranes to quickly work three ships at one time, according to the release. The state-of-the-art Leatherman Terminal stands ready with 700,000 TEUs of capacity to further support U.S. supply chains.
“As a state, this all makes us more competitive. When we build port capacity, we attract more businesses, investments and jobs to our communities,” Melvin said in the release. “These strategic investments have generational impact across our entire state. SC Ports is proud to keep freight moving for South Carolina.”
Driving economic growth
Melvin highlighted how port investments drive economic growth in South Carolina, creating generational opportunities for South Carolinians.
A new study found that having a world-class port in South Carolina makes a nearly $87 billion statewide economic impact each year, according to Dr. Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist and professor at the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business, who authored the study, the release stated.
The 2023 SC Ports’ Economic Impact Study found that port activities support 1 in 9 jobs in South Carolina, meaning that 260,000 S.C. jobs are tied — directly or indirectly — to port operations and port users, the release stated. These jobs account for both those employed by the port and maritime industry, and those working at port-dependent businesses around the state, like advanced manufacturers or retail distribution centers.
“We have remained incredibly competitive as the 8th largest port in the country, and when port-dependent businesses thrive, it creates opportunities in our communities,” Melvin said. “This growth is thanks to our best-in-class customers, industry partners, visionary state and elected leaders, strong supporters, incredible Board of Directors, and the most amazing port teammates and maritime community in the country.”a