Container traffic up 11 percent in February

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -{}In the 12th straight month of year-over-year growth, container volume in the Port of Charleston rose nearly 11 percent in February compared to the same month last year, the South Carolina Ports Authority reported Monday.

February container volume in TEUs was nearly 21 percent higher than the same month two years ago, and loaded container volume saw the strongest month since October 2008.

SCPA President and CEO Jim Newsome noted during the Board meeting that this reflects a "trend in the right direction" and that the next few months are traditionally the busiest part of the year for the port's container business.

"We are going into the strong part of our year," Newsome said during the meeting. "All of the lines are making their service deployment decisions that come into effect in May, and we expect to see additional big ships in our harbor from more carriers."

Container volume for the first eight months of the fiscal year are up more than 11 percent to 1,024,121 TEUs handled from July to February, up from 920,547 TEUs during the same period last year.

Before convening the meeting, the SCPA Board was joined by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and LTC Ed Chamberlayne of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District to discuss progress on Charleston's post-45 harbor deepening project. The project's feasibility study is now at the midway mark.

Chamberlayne told the Board that there is a lot of active work ongoing in the harbor today as part of the study's information gathering. In two years "we've come a very long way," he said. Chamberlayne explained that many parts of the project are ahead of schedule and the project is presently fully funded and on an aggressive timetable.

Sen. Graham congratulated LTC Chamberlayne on the progress made and thanked him for his leadership.

Graham also noted that new legislation that will be introduced in Congress would establish a more merit-based approach to harbor improvement projects by fully utilizing the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. He predicted that Charleston's project would compete well for federal funding, which would cover 40 percent of the project's construction cost.

"For us to grow our economy, we've got to do the big deal," Sen. Graham said. "The economic engine of South Carolina is the Port of Charleston. I am confident that the Port of Charleston will fare very well in that merit-based system."