South Carolina’s ports make a significant impact on the state and local economy from shipping businesses across the world. However, South Carolina State Ports Authority spokesperson Byron Miller says the Port of Georgetown has seen brighter days.
“The Port of Georgetown is struggling. We’ve lost a significant amount of business over the last couple of years up there as the channel has filtered in. We’ve been working very closely with the Corps (of Engineers) to try and identify funding, but we have to get the business back first,” says Miller.
To do that, Miller says they have been focusing on bringing in new cargo accounts where they can. He says one reason for the cost cuts is the drop in the shallow shipping channel, which serves as a “highway for the vessels.”
“We’re continuing to see new business, but at the same time we are trying to seek some federal funding. The maintenance of that channel, which is suppose to be 27 feet, has gotten down to 21 to 22 feet. It’s a federal responsibility, the federal government is suppose to be in there maintaining it, so we are working closely with our congressional delegation to identify some funding,” says Miller.
Miller explains the overall goal of the two ports in the state: “What we are trying to do is generate business for South Carolina in both of our ports in Georgetown and in Charleston, and if there is a way to tie in and secure a customer today that might make sense in Georgetown tomorrow, then certainly we would look for opportunities to do that in the Port of Charleston. That makes good business sense. We wouldn’t turn business away from South Carolina just because it couldn’t get into Georgetown,” says Miller.
As for the Port of Georgetown’s future, Miller expects brighter days ahead.
“There’s about only one way to go at this point. It can only go up because we have declined to just over 2,000 tons when we had over 1.7 million tons a few years ago. So, yeah, I think there is only one way to go, and that’s up, and hopefully we can identify some federal funding, cause that’s the key. And, without the channels, without the arteries to our ports, then the heart just doesn’t pump,” says Miller.
Some experts blame the decline in port revenue on the closing of the Georgetown steel mill and the recession.
(Miller’s comments on Port of Georgetown, MP3, 3:14)