The Port of Charleston is fast approaching its high-water mark for container volumes achieved in fiscal year 2008 before the recession caused the cargo business to plummet, South Carolina Ports Authority president and chief executive officer Jim Newsome said in his annual "State-of-the-Port" address on Tuesday.
In fiscal year 2013, ended June 30, container traffic grew 9 percent to 1.56 million TEUs. Container volume is up 22 percent from the fiscal year low of 1.28 million TEUs in 2010. At its peak, the Port of Charleston handled 1.75 million TEUs.
Newsome noted the port's fiscal year growth exceeded the U.S. industry average of 2 percent, according to a news release from the port authority and his slide presentation at the Propeller Club of Charleston. Newsome appeared to be referring to calendar year figures for the industry average. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, total TEU volume grew 2.2 percent in 2012.
In October, container volume at the port grew 16.8 percent to 141,049 TEUs, according to the port authority. Since the start of the fiscal year in July, container volume is up 6.44 percent to 554,867 TEUs.
Charleston is the nation's 10 largest container port, with a market share of 4 percent by volume, according to AAPA.
Newsome reiterated the importance of having the Port of Charleston's main channel deepened to 50-feet to accommodate the mega-size container vessels now being deployed and that will make more frequent appearances with the widening of the Panama Canal in 2015. Infrastructure improvements such as dredging and the new inland port in Greer are necessary as the Southeast continues to rapidly grow as an exporting region and consumption market, he said.
The Charleston deepening project is in the study phase, and the Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District plans to finish its Chief's Report
by September 2015. Charleston is currently 45-feet deep, although ships enjoy a 48-foot draft at high tide.
"Our port system is the major strategic asset for the state in the current era of global sourcing and manufacturing," Newsome said.
(For an in-depth look at the Port of Charleston's recent progress, read "Charleston's groundwork for more cargo
," in the October issue of American Shipper