Capital improvement funds allocated for South Carolina terminal

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) this week adopted a $319 million capital spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

The SCPA’s board of directors on Wednesday also approved a fiscal year 2021 plan that projects the handling of 1.24 million pier containers and generation of $81.4 million in operating cash flow. The SCPA’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

“We are in the final year of a six-year capital improvement plan,” SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “We are preparing for our major infrastructure projects to come online in 2021 while also continuing to ensure that our port works incredibly well.”

Most of the capital improvement funds will be used to complete the first phase of construction of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, set to open in March. The SCPA says this is the first new container terminal in the United States since 2009.

The first phase includes a 1,400-foot wharf, five ship-to-shore cranes with 169 feet of lift height, and 25 hybrid rubber-tired gantry cranes as well as the ability to handle vessels with a capacity of 19,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). By 2030, when fully opened, the terminal will provide the SCPA an additional 2.4 million TEUs of capacity.

The Leatherman Terminal and the upgraded Wando Welch Terminal will enable the SCPA to handle four 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously. Expansion of the Wando Welch turning basin to 1,650 feet will be completed in May 2021. Channel dredging to take the Charleston Harbor to a 52-foot depth and enable mega-ships to access port terminals is expected to be finished in May 2022. 

The SCPA said volumes remained steady through the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020 compared to the previous year. However, May volumes were down year-over-year, which the SCPA attributed to the coronavirus-caused disruption of global supply chains and the temporary shutdowns of manufacturers and businesses.

We were on track for another record fiscal year until the pandemic happened,” Newsome said. “Nevertheless, ports are a long-term business requiring long-term planning. We have great fundamentals as a growing port in the Southeast. We will continue to thrive. Our future is very bright.”

The SCPA handled 169,705 TEUs at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals in May. The Port of Charleston handled a total of 2.2 million TEUs in fiscal year 2020 between July 1, 2019, and May 30 of this year.

The SCPA moved 97,966 pier containers — the total number of boxes handled — in May, bringing the fiscal-year-to-date total to 1.23 million.

The inland ports of Greer and Dillon had a combined total of 159,917 rail moves in the fiscal year through May 31, the SCPA said.

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Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Kim Link-Wills.