Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal

Hapag-Lloyd's Yorktown Express becomes the first ship to call at the new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston, South Carolina, April 9, 2021. Photo: SC Ports Walter Lagarenne

Retail Imports Drive Record Volumes at Port of Charleston Container Terminals in September

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 813
October 12, 2021

South Carolina’s Port of Charleston seems to be handling the the retail imports surge in stride as it kicks off holiday shipping season with a bang.

SC Ports reported 205,008 TEUS in throughput in September across its three container terminals; Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal and the new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal. This sets a record for the month September and marks a 5% increase year-over-year.

SC Ports closed its 2021 fiscal year on June 30 having handled a record 2.55 million TEUs fueled by consumers’ pandemic spending. Fiscal-year-to-date, SC Ports has now handled 684,517 TEUs at its container terminals, up nearly 18% from the same time a year ago.

September’s loaded imports hit 98,208 TEUs, for a 9% year-over-year increase, as consumers continue to spend more on retail, spurring record volumes since March and consistently strong imports of consumer goods.

Pier containers, which account for boxes of any size, also saw an increase last month. SC Ports reported handling 113,486 units for month, a 5% increase from last year. Year-to-date pier containers are up nearly 18%.

“SC Ports kicks off fiscal year 2022 with a record first quarter. The Port of Charleston is handling more retail goods, home goods, furniture, appliances and electronics than ever before,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “While the global supply chain remains under tremendous pressure, SC Ports is fortunate to have invested in the right port infrastructure at the right time. We have the cargo capacity, berth availability and terminal fluidity that retailers need to quickly move their cargo as we head into the peak season.”

SC Ports also handled 61,705 TEUs of loaded exports at the Port of Charleston in September, up 2% year-over-year. Vehicles remained steady with 21,346 vehicles rolling across the docks of Columbus Street Terminal in September. Fiscal-year-to-date, SC Ports has handled 62,840 vehicles.

SC Ports opened phase one of its new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal (HLT) in March 2021, marking the first new container terminal to open in the United States since 2009. The terminal adds 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity and an additional berth to the East Coast market. When fully built, the 286-acre terminal will add 2.4 million TEUs of throughput capacity across three berths, doubling Charleston’s existing port capacity.

Unlike the Georgia’s Port of Savannah to the south, Charleston does not seem to be experiencing the same backlog of ships. AIS ship tracking data as of Tuesday showed just a single containership at anchor off Charleston.

“As the slowdown in cargo velocity is felt throughout the global supply chain, SC Ports remains focused on providing customized solutions and efficient operations to keep freight moving,” Newsome said. “By investing more than $2 billion in port infrastructure in recent years, we have the capacity to handle the influx of imports we are seeing today.”

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