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First new terminal for over a decade to boost US trade

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South Carolina Ports (SC Ports) has confirmed that the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal will be operational by March 2021 and will substantially increase capacity and improve the regional and national supply chain.

The terminal will be the first to open in the US since the Trans Pacific Container Service Corporation terminal opened at the Port of Jacksonville in 2009.

It will add 700,000 TEU annually to SC Ports’ throughput in the first phase. A critical component is already complete, the construction of a 1,400ft wharf designed to receive vessels of 19,000 TEU capacity or more.

SC Ports is in the final year of a $2 billion six-year capital improvement plan to improve maritime and supply chain infrastructure.

The $1 billion Phase One of the Leatherman Terminal complements efforts to modernise Wando Welch Terminal and deepen Charleston Harbor to 52ft.

These investments will enable SC Ports to handle four 14,000 TEU vessels simultaneously in 2021.

The Hugh K Leatherman terminal will eventually increase SC Ports’ capacity by 2.4 million TEU and could offer relief to America’s congested maritime infrastructure.

Credit: SC Ports

Third party logistics provider C.H. Robinson recently released a client advisory warning of “operational challenges” in US, ports particularly on the West Coast, throughout October.

Ports across the country have had a mixed 2020, with the major Pacific gateways being hit by lingering US-China trade war and the persistent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those on the East Coast, such as SC Ports, have generally fared better, suggesting a possible longer-term reconfiguration as supply chain stakeholders and businesses revaluate their operations away from China.

Furthermore, the pandemic has emphasised the importance of development and port investment, with many hubs, such as SC Ports, looking for ways to meet demand faster and in a more environmentally friendly way.

“Everybody understands how much value this will add to South Carolina,” Butch Weber, SC Ports’ Engineering Project Manager said. While 80% of the companies used in the construction of the terminal are based in the state, SC Ports has also sought expertise from abroad.

The main container handling equipment has been built by Chinese-state manufacturer ZPMC. The new fleet of ship-to-shore (STS) cranes to be used from March 2021 will have a lift height capability of 169ft and reach of 228ft.

They are due to be delivered to SC Ports by late-October 2020 and will be assembled and put into operation by ZPMC USA in early November. The new STS cranes will become the biggest STS cranes on the East Coast.

Additionally, 25 hybrid rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes are also set to be delivered in late 2020. Four of the RTGs will arrive with the STS cranes. At the time of writing, ZPMC is completing construction and testing of the remaining 21 RTG cranes, preparing them to be shipped in mid-October and early November.

Furthermore, the SC Ports’ engineering team has worked with many contractors on the site, including HDR, Banks Construction, Samet Corp, Cape Romain/McLean A Joint Venture and Cape Romain Contractors, to ensure the success of the project.

Walter Lagarenne, SC Ports’ Director of Engineering and Permitting, said, “The teams behind the Leatherman Terminal have deployed innovative engineering and excellent on-site coordination throughout this entire project,”

“From day one, we’ve had amazing collaboration, enabling us to keep this massive project on schedule and on budget.”

“Phase One construction is going to be completed in about 32 months, with the site work and the buildings being finished in about 18 months — quite a feat for a project of this magnitude.”

A road connection for lorries is also being constructed which is being financed by the SC Department of Transportation. This will provide truck drivers with a direct connection between Interstate 26 and the Leatherman Terminal, SC Ports said.

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