South Carolina defies COVID-19 with steady volume


The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) has said it finished fiscal year 2020 with relatively steady volumes compared to 2019 despite the impact of the global pandemic.

In a statement, the SCPA said it had enjoyed a “very strong” start to the fiscal year and was on track to achieve record volume before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SCPA finished fiscal year 2020, which ended on 30 June, with 2.32 million TEU handled at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals, down 2.8% from fiscal year 2019.

S.C. Ports moved 1.32 million pier containers, which measures the total number of boxes handled, in fiscal year 2020. This is down 3.4% from the year prior.

From January to June, S.C. Ports had 58 blanked sailings, meaning a vessel does not arrive during its scheduled time or is rescheduled. S.C. Ports has had 14 additional blank sailings announced for July onward.

The Port of Charleston achieved modest growth for both vehicles and pier tons in fiscal year 2020 compared to fiscal year 2019. The Port handled 640,929 pier tons in fiscal year 2020, up 2.5% from the year prior.

The Port saw 199,825 vehicles roll across the docks of Columbus Street Terminal in fiscal year 2020, an increase of 2.5% from the year prior. Vehicle volumes started to rebound in June after many automotive manufacturing plants resumed normal operations in May.

“The pandemic impacted businesses across the board and our volumes reflect that. We hope to see continued recovery as we begin fiscal year 2021,” S.C. Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said.

“We have an incredibly well-run port located in the thriving Southeast market. We plan to continue growing and diversifying our cargo base with retail goods imports and transload exports, such as forest products and agricultural goods.”

Fiscal 2020 performance at S.C. Ports’ two inland ports marks sustained success with regional rail initiatives. Companies benefit from the same-day rail service connection to the Port of Charleston. 

Inland Port Dillon, situated along Interstate 95 in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, achieved its highest fiscal year volume on record with 32,453 rail moves, up 9.7%. Inland Port Dillon also achieved its best June yet with 2,696 rail moves last month.

“Our inland ports are an excellent success story for S.C. Ports and South Carolina,” S.C. Ports COO Barbara Melvin said. “The inland ports provide crucial speed-to-market for cargo owners.

Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon also extend our reach beyond the waterfront, ensuring we are a port for the entire state.”

S.C. Ports continues to attract new business to the region, such as First Solar building its East Coast distribution hub in Greenville, S.C., and moving cargo through Inland Port Greer and the Port of Charleston.

Additionally, Frontier Logistics and A&R Logistics are both making significant progress on building their respective resin export facilities in the Lowcountry, which are slated to open this year.

Amid great economic challenges, S.C. Ports remains focused on growing cargo volumes and bringing new infrastructure online in 2021.

“We have positioned ourselves well for future growth as we prepare to open our state-of-the-art container terminal, the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, in this fiscal year,” Newsome said. “I look to our future with great energy and optimism.”

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