The President and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCPA) gave a state Senate panel an update last week on the Port of Charleston.
Jim Newsome told the Senate Finance Committee carriers are using much bigger cargo ships and impacting all ports across the country.
“They get these ships in three years, it takes a port 10 years to catch up on the infrastructure to handle the ships,” he said. “So we are all playing catch up.”
The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project will take the channel down from 48 feet to 52 feet to accommodate the larger ships.
Newsome told senators if a port cannot handle the bigger ships, it will see its cargo volume decrease. “Infrastructure-wise, you need to handle these big container ships in a timely fashion,” he said. “And, if you can’t handle them, they go elsewhere. It’s pretty simple.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the first two construction contracts last fall, which together provide for the deepening of the more than 20-miles long Charleston Harbor entrance channel to 54 feet. That includes the dredging of the upper and lower harbors to 52 feet. The project is expected to be finished by 2020, although it depends on the federal government keeping the funding timeline in place. Congress did not include Charleston’s project in the current spending plan, although the state’s share of funding will continue to pay for work.
Newsome said SCPA reported a fiscal year-to-date container volume record of over 1.4 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEU) handled since July.
SCPA moved 168,480 TEUs during the month of February, which drove a fiscal year-over-year container volume increase of slightly more than one percent.