Port of Chareston's Wando Welch Terminal. Photo: SCPA/Walter Lagarenne

SC Ports Completes Years-Long Infrastructure Project at Port of Charleston

Mike Schuler
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August 18, 2022

South Carolina Ports is marking the completion of its years-long infrastructure project as its fifteenth and final ship-to-shore crane is now operational at the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal.

The fifteen new ship-to-shore cranes have 155 feet of lift height and the ability to reach out over 22 containers to work the biggest ships calling the U.S. East Coast. The cranes will allow for three 14,000-TEU vessels to be worked simultaneously—five cranes for each of the three berths. The first two neo-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes arrived at the Wando Welch Terminal in 2018.

The cranes are a key part of SC Ports’ $500 million investment to modernize Wando Welch Terminal. The multi-year project added capacity and boosted operations with new container-handling equipment, a modernized container yard and refrigerated cargo yard, improved traffic patterns and IT systems, a strengthened wharf, and an on-terminal transload facility for large retailers.

“It is truly remarkable to see the final crane of our new fleet moved into place on the Wando Welch Terminal wharf,” said SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin, who took the helm in July. “This is the culmination of years of effort, planning and coordination by our team and project partners. Our modern equipment provides smarter operations and more fluidity for the supply chain.”

SC Ports handled 216,097 TEUs and 119,872 pier containers at Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal and Leatherman Terminal in July. This marked an improvement from the 196,225 TEUs it handled the previous month as delays at the Port of Savannah led some operators to omit Charleston, opting to instead to unload Charleston-bound containers in Savannah to make up time, according to industry expert John McCown.

SC Ports last month reported a record fiscal year in 2022 (its fiscal year runs July to June), with 2.85 million TEUs handled. For pier containers, which account for boxes of any size, SC Ports moved 1.58 million containers during the year. Overall, SC Ports saw a 12% uptick in cargo, with more than 164,000 additional containers moving through the Port of Charleston than the year prior thanks to sustained consumer demand. Imports were up 22% year-over-year.

To maintain cargo fluidity at terminals, SC Ports has extended Sunday gate hours for motor carriers through at least peak season, given berth priority to vessels taking out more cargo, improved rail dray dwell times to around 36 hours, hired more than 150 people in operations to handle the influx of cargo, and launched a port-owned and port-operated chassis pool.

These efforts have helped to keep cargo moving. There have been no vessels waiting since early May, though supply chain challenges continue along the East Coast, according to SC Ports.

“We are continuing to be adaptive and responsive to ensure fluidity for our customers and cargo owners,” Melvin said.

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