Stevedoring services join forces in Charleston

Competitors officially became collaborators Monday as the Charleston Stevedoring Co. (CSC) launched to optimize terminal, vessel and gate operations at the South Carolina port. 

CSC is a joint venture of Marine Terminals Corp.–East (Ports America), Ceres Marine Terminals and SSA Atlantic to provide container terminal and stevedoring services at the Port of Charleston.

“The new entity will provide significant benefits to the Port of Charleston, including improved container terminal services through the consolidated operations at all berths as well as more efficient vessel turn times and improved equipment utilization,” CSC President Dan Hall said. “The combined company will optimize use of terminal capacity and improve integration between terminal, vessel and gate operations.”

Terminal operator and stevedore Ports America has operations in every major port in the United States. Transportation services provider Ceres has stevedoring and terminal operations across multiple cargo types. SSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of marine and rail terminal operator Carrix Inc.

In March 2019, Ports America, SSA Atlantic and Ceres filed the Georgia-South Carolina Marine Terminal Operator Cooperative Working Agreement with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). According to the proposed agreement, the three companies planned to consolidate their marine terminal services and stevedoring operations at the ports of Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, and operate under the company name NEWCO.

“It’s almost mimicking some of the behavior of the ocean carriers in trying to gain some efficiencies and economies of scale by working together,” South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) Chief Operating Officer Barbara Melvin said then.

But in a letter to the FMC dated April 18, 2019, World Shipping Council President John Butler said the formation of NEWCO “raises a substantial threat of reduced competition, threshold Shipping Act jurisdictional questions and multiple factual questions about its scope of information sharing and effects on competition and operations in other ports.”

The International Longshoremen’s Association also opposed the joint venture, telling the FMC that NEWCO would have “a veritable lock on competition in the context of both market share and market concentration.”

The petitioners withdrew the proposed agreement in September. Melvin told local media at that time the collaboration was still proceeding in Charleston and that the FMC had determined it had no jurisdiction over the proposed business venture.   

The SCPA confirmed Monday that the original three collaborating companies regrouped as CSC and that the Port of Savannah was not part of the operating agreement. 

Charleston Stevedoring Co. LLC filed as a Delaware domestic limited liability company on Jan. 29.