Photo courtesy SC Ports

South Carolina’s Port of Charleston Sets Latest Monthly Cargo Record in March

Mike Schuler
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April 12, 2022

The Port of Charleston set its thirteenth consecutive monthly cargo record in March as consumers’ appetite for retail goods continues to drive record levels of retail imports, South Carolina Ports said Tuesday.

SC Ports on Tuesday reported handling 264,334 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) last month across its three container terminals; Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal and Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal. This is up 6% from last year. Meanwhile, March 2022 imports were up 16% year-over-year.

Nine months into its fiscal year 2022 (July to March), SC Ports has now moved 2.14 million TEUs, up 15%.

Pier container, accounting for containers of any size, came in at 145,415, up 5% from last year. So far in fiscal year 2022, SC Ports has moved 1.19 million pier containers, up nearly 15% from the same period last year.

SC Ports said strong U.S. consumer appetite for retail goods continues to drive record cargo levels—and congestion. AIS ship tracking data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed sixteen containerships at anchor off the port as of Tuesday. The backlog comes as ocean carriers have increasingly shifted capacity to East Coast ports to avoid West Coast coast logjams. (Despite this shift, the Port of Los Angeles today also reported record monthly cargo numbers for March. In fact, last month marked L.A.’s third-busiest month ever, closing out its busiest first quarter).

“As we continue to handle record volumes on our terminals, SC Ports is working alongside our maritime community and logistics partners to navigate the many challenges felt across the entire supply chain,” SC Ports CEO Jim Newsome said. “We are responding to customers’ needs as we make progress on reducing the backlog.”

SC Ports said it’s responding to record volumes and ongoing supply chain challenges with a variety of efforts, such as providing Sunday hours for motor carriers and selective term leasing of the port’s new chassis. It has also hired more than 150 people in operations and invested more than $2 billion into port infrastructure, including the new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal which has added a much-needed berthing space to the East Coast port market.

However, Leatherman Terminal’s capacity is not being fully utilized by United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) member ocean carriers, pending resolution of an ongoing case in front of the National Labor Relations Board, brought by SC Ports, accussing the International Longshoremen’s Association and USMX of unfair labor practices.

“We will continue investing in strategic port infrastructure and deploying creative solutions to ensure fluidity for our customers,” Newsome said. “We are very grateful to our dedicated SC Ports team and the entire maritime and logistics community. Thank you to the men and women working so hard to keep freight moving for the Southeast supply chain.”

SC Ports also handled 21,809 vehicles at Columbus Street Terminal and recorded 17,413 rail moves at Inland Ports Greer and Dillon in March.

SC Ports reported 18,409 cruise passengers in March, which is the highest month thus far in this fiscal year. Cruise operations resumed in late December after a nearly two-year hiatus.

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