South Carolina (S.C.) Ports Authority saw some positive cargo trends in August, pointing to a slow but emerging recovery during the ongoing global pandemic.


SC Ports handled 208,837 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) at the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals in August, down about 10% year-over-year.


When compared to recent months, however, volumes are trending positively, with TEUs up 18% since July and up 33% since June.


SC Ports moved 116,248 pier containers, which measures boxes of any size, in August. This is down 12% year-over-year, but up 17% from July and up 31% from June.


Better-than-expected performance


“Our August volumes surpassed expectations, reflecting the best year-over-year month since the pandemic began impacting global supply chains in March,” Jim Newsome, SC Ports president and CEO said.


“We are encouraged by a steady rebound in containers, vehicles and inland port rail moves.”


SC Ports handled 26,214 vehicles at Columbus Street Terminal in August, a 38% increase from a year ago. Vehicle volumes are up 42% fiscal-year-to-date, with 51,342 vehicles handled in July and August. The Port handled 73,811 pier tons in August, up 25% year-over-year.


August also marked the second-highest month ever for imports to the Port of Charleston.


“Our imports are returning to — and at times surpassing — pre-pandemic levels as consumers invest in more goods for their homes and families,” Newsome said.


“SC Ports is well-known for expertly moving goods just-in-time for global companies. Our efficient operations and big-ship capabilities perfectly suit the needs of global retailers who require reliability and adaptability in their supply chains."


Big ships in the horizon


SC Ports is preparing to welcome the largest ship to ever visit the East Coast and the Port of Charleston — the 15,072-TEU CMA CGM Brazil is set to sail into Charleston Harbor on September 20.


SC Ports’ modern ship-to-shore cranes, efficient terminal operations and deep harbour enable the port to accommodate a container ship of this size.


The port said investments are ongoing to further equip SC Ports to handle massive container ships in the future.


The fully-funded Charleston Harbor Deepening Project remains on schedule to achieve a 52-foot depth in 2021, with the full project completion slated for mid-2022. Work continues to further enhance Wando Welch Terminal to handle more cargo and bigger ships.


Construction of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal is making great strides toward a March opening. Five new ship-to-shore cranes with 169 feet of lift height above the wharf deck are slated to arrive in October, outfitting the container terminal with some of the tallest ship-to-shore cranes on the East Coast. Phase One of the Leatherman Terminal will add 700,000 TEUs of annual throughput capacity to SC Ports.


“A deeper harbour, new ship-to-shore cranes, a new container terminal and enhancements to existing terminals will enable us to handle four 14,000-TEU vessels simultaneously next year,” Newsome said.