Photo: SCPA/English Purcell

South Carolina Ports Mark Record Year in 2021

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 926
January 12, 2022

South Carolina Ports reported handling 2.75 million TEUs at its container terminals in 2021 for its best calendar year in history.

SC Ports owns and operates the Port of Charleston, home to the Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal and Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal container terminals, as well as Port of Georgetown, Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon.

“2021 was a truly banner year for South Carolina Ports,” SC Ports CEO Jim Newsome said. “Amid tremendous and ongoing supply chain challenges, we handled record-breaking cargo volumes, while consistently providing capacity and fluidity for our customers. The strength of our port continues to be in the quality of our workforce and excellent maritime community.”

Cargo volumes through the SC Ports’ container terminals was up 19% in 2021, compared to 2020, and up 13% from 2019. SC Ports terminals also handled 1.53 million pier containers, which accounts for containers of any size, for an 18% increase from 2020 and a 11% increase from 2019.

SC Ports ended its year with its strongest December on record, handling 246,198 TEUs, and marking ten consecutive months of container records. Much of the cargo growth has stemmed from consumers buying more retail goods during the pandemic.

Loaded imports were up 25% year-over-year in 2021 to 1.29 million TEUs. SC Ports said a significant uptick in retail imports — including home goods, appliances, furniture, clothing and electronics — drove much of the growth at the Port of Charleston.

Loaded exports rose 5% year-over-year, ending at 814,964 loaded export TEUs in 2021.

“Big retailers continue to grow, increasing their need for a reliable partner in the supply chain. SC Ports provides capacity for retailers as record retail imports flow into the Port of Charleston,” Newsome said. “By investing more than $2 billion in port infrastructure, SC Ports provides much-needed supply chain fluidity for customers.”

SC Ports’ two rail-served inland ports proved crucial for supply chain fluidity throughout 2021. Inland Port Greer handled 160,234 rail moves, a new calendar year record, up 14% from 2020, while Inland Port Dillon recorded 29,412 rail moves.

The automotive segment remained steady in 2021, with 233,887 vehicles rolling across the docks at Columbus Street Terminal. Vehicle volumes are up 6% from 2020.

“In 2021, we hired over 100 people in operations to support cargo growth and worked tirelessly to keep freight moving through the Southeast supply chain,” SC Ports COO Barbara Melvin said. “Our impressive cargo growth and efficient port terminals are made possible by our excellent port team, maritime community and logistics partners.”

In March 2021, SC Ports’ opened its new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, adding about 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity and marking the country’s first container terminal to open in more than a decade.

In 2022, SC Ports plans to deploy its now-completed full fleet of 15 ship-to-shore cranes with 155 feet of lift height at Wando Welch Terminal, allowing the terminal to handle three 14,000-TEU container ships simultaneously; achieving full utilization of Phase One of Leatherman Terminal; completing the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project; initiating construction on the rail-served Navy Base Intermodal Facility and inner-harbor barge project; and advancing towards quick completion of the Inland Port Greer expansion project.

“SC Ports has the capacity and fluidity needed in today’s challenging supply chain,” Newsome said. “We are the only port in the country with a new container terminal, with the Leatherman Terminal adding an additional berth to the East Coast port market. We are continuing to enhance Wando Welch Terminal and we will soon have the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet. We look forward to developing near-dock rail with the Navy Base Intermodal Facility. Our future is very bright.”

Port growth creates jobs and investments throughout the state. SC Ports generates a $63.4 billion annual economic impact and creates 1 in 10 jobs in South Carolina, according to a 2019 study from the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business.

“Growth at SC Ports benefits South Carolina’s economy and spurs job creation in our communities,” SC Ports Board Chairman Bill Stern said. “We must work together to ensure South Carolina’s supply chain remains fluid and capable. Our shared vision makes us successful.”

Also, cruise operations resumed in December with the Norwegian Gem visiting the Port of Charleston. This month, SC Ports will also welcombe back its homeported ship the Carnival Sunshine.

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