SCPA achieves record-breaking year in pier containers, intermodal volumes and Inland Port rail lifts

South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) posted significant growth across multiple business segments in fiscal year 2017, exceeding aggressive financial plans for containerized cargo, breakbulk tonnage and rail volumes.

“SCPA had an ambitious growth plan for the 2017 fiscal year, and it is a true accomplishment to have exceeded that plan across all business segments,” said SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome. “Amid uncertainty in the industry due to the consolidation of ocean carriers, SCPA successfully continued our growth trend well above the U.S. port market average. Through the expansion of import-export business in our region as well as successful efforts to recruit cargo from the Midwest and Gulf markets, it was a positive fiscal year for us and we expect continued growth into our new year.”

South Carolina Ports posts strong growth in Fiscal Year 2017
Caption: The first meeting of two 13,000 TEU ships in the Port of Charleston occurred on July 15, when the OOCL Berlin and the Erving met in the shipping channel near Sullivan’s Island. - Image courtesy of SCPA

SCPA handled 2.14 million twenty-foot equivalent units in FY2017, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year and an all-time high volume for the Port.

“The fact that SCPA has set a new volume record shows that one of the most important pieces of our state’s economic engine is achieving great things, and will only continue to improve,” said S.C. Governor Henry McMaster. “This success is a testament, not only to the tremendous leadership at the Ports Authority, but also to the dedication shown by each man and woman who works there.”

Over 1.21 million pier containers, or boxes, moved across SCPA docks during the fiscal year, setting a new volume record. Relative to fiscal year volume plans, the Port handled nearly 3 percent more containers in FY2017.

In breakbulk cargo, Charleston tonnage exceeded planned volumes by 8.8 percent with 846,952 pier tons handled from July through June. Within the non-containerized cargo segment, SCPA moved 258,455 finished vehicles across the docks of the Columbus Street Terminal in FY2017.

The fiscal year marked strong growth of SCPA’s intermodal volume, and today nearly a quarter of the Port’s containerized cargo moves by rail. Charleston’s RapidRail volumes increased 12.1 percent from FY2016 to FY2017, and volumes in this program reached an all-time high in May and June with 25,002 and 22,129 moves handled, respectively.

Expansion of cargo at Inland Port Greer, where rail lifts exceeded FY2017 plans by 11 percent, played a key role in the Port’s overall rail growth. The facility finished the fiscal year with a record 121,761 rail lifts.

“I’m proud of the significant growth the Port achieved across multiple business segments in FY2017,” said Pamela Lackey, SCPA Board Chair. “SCPA’s year-over-year growth story is made possible by the leadership of a talented CEO and strong maritime community. The Port’s success is truly reflective of our state’s positive business climate, and we’re grateful to Governor McMaster and the S.C. General Assembly for their continued support of the Port.”

Operational Metrics

In addition to significant volume growth, SCPA demonstrated exemplary operational metrics in fiscal year 2017.

Dockside crane reliability across SCPA’s two container terminals averaged 99.44 percent, marking the ninth straight year of ship-to-shore crane reliability over 99.4 percent. Through an effective preventive maintenance program, knowledgeable maintenance staff and involvement of crane operators in reporting of issues, SCPA avoided virtually any unplanned outage of the Port’s 16 ship-to-shore cranes.

The first full fiscal year of the Advanced Gate System at the Wando Welch Terminal (WWT) was another driver of the Port’s productivity in FY2017. Average hourly gate transactions on weekdays increased nearly 28 percent, with 421 hourly transactions handled on average in FY17 compared to 329 hourly transactions the prior year.

“AGS is working extremely well, enabling the Port to efficiently handle growing volumes through our gates,” Newsome said. “We processed a record 708 transactions in one hour at the Wando Terminal on January 17, which reflects outstanding performance of our gates. This improvement in productivity ultimately allows us to better serve the companies in our state and region that depend on our Port to work well and serve their international supply chain needs.”

Board Action

The SCPA Board approved a contract for the construction of four refrigerated container access racks to join four racks of the same design that opened in November at the Wando Terminal. Along with the new six-acre refrigerated container service area that opened in May, the racks enhance the handling of SCPA’s rapidly-growing cold chain business.

The Board also approved an engineering design services contract for upcoming projects at Inland Port Greer. The design services include preparation of construction plans for the relocation of the chassis yard off the existing concrete area, which will provide additional space on terminal for container operations. The contract also includes the planning of site activities for future expansion of the terminal’s footprint, to be based upon market demand.

Port Property for Sale

SCPA recently announced two downtown Charleston properties, located at 838 Morrison Drive, for sale. The sale of these parcels are related to SCPA’s plans to consolidate employee offices in a new corporate headquarters at the Wando Welch Terminal. Details about the properties and sales process are available at

SVP External Affairs Announced

SCPA announced the retirement of Clint Eisenhauer, Senior Vice President of External Affairs, effective September 30. The former Maersk Group executive joined SCPA in November of 2015, having previously overseen policy and political outreach for Maersk across all business units and supported its interests domestically and abroad.

“Clint has been an asset to the Port during his time as SVP of External Affairs, both as a member of our leadership team and mentor to his direct reports,” Newsome said. “We congratulate him on his retirement.”

Jordi Yarborough, former Director of Government Affairs for Check Into Cash in the Southeast region, has been selected as Eisenhauer’s replacement and will join the Port on August 15. Yarborough has substantial experience in multi-state government relations, having previously been a partner with The Yarborough Group and Director of Government Relations for Roper St. Francis Healthcare. As a member of the senior leadership team, Yarborough will oversee SCPA’s public and media relations, government affairs, website and digital efforts, and community outreach.

“We are excited to welcome Jordi to the SCPA,” said SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome. “Her government affairs and business background make her a valuable addition to our senior team.”

Source: SCPA