“This has been a year of great strides toward port expansion,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., president and CEO of the SCSPA. “South Carolina’s ports are positioned for long-term growth and success.”
Most significantly during the year, state and federal permits were issued for the new three-berth, 280-acre container terminal on the former Charleston Navy Base. Ground was broken on the site on May 7 and work is now underway to ready the site for consolidation and construction. The South Carolina General Assembly recently appropriated an additional US$167m toward construction of a port access road.
New equipment totalling US$64m was delivered and installed at the SCSPA’s terminals during the year, including four new super post-Panamax container cranes and 16 RTGs. Crane productivity at the Port of Charleston rose by 5%, with an average 40.53 moves per hour per crane, up from 38.76 moves per hour in fiscal 2006. Average trucker turn times through the SCSPA’s common user gates dropped to just 20.76 minutes, a 10% improvement from FY06.
Charleston’s container volumes amounted to 1,883,651 teu, down 4.8% from last year. The decline was driven primarily by industry mergers, declines in the housing industry and broad-based weakness across trade lanes in the South Atlantic. Operating revenues totalled US$153.44m, while operating expenses were US$103.56m. This made operating earnings for the year US$49.88m, a 32.5% operating margin, according to the SCSPA.
In other news, the governors of Georgia and South Carolina announced an effort to explore cooperative development of a marine terminal in Jasper County on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, with the SCSPA taking primary responsibility for the site.
In December, the SCSPA submitted what it claims to be the largest environmental mitigation plan in South Carolina’s history. The US$10m plan includes funding for environmental programmes as well as community mitigation programmes, a first for any port-related project. The SCSPA also signed a voluntary agreement with the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control to proactively study ways to cut air emissions.
Several new carrier services began during the year, enhancing Charleston’s connections with Asia, northern Europe, India, the Mediterranean and South America. Also, the Department of Homeland Security awarded the SCSPA US$12.4m in Port Security Grants in Rounds 6 and 7, announced in September and May respectively. Only four port areas in the US (Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Seattle) have received more grant funding since the inception of the programme in 2002.