New steel business helped the Port of Charleston experience an 85 percent increase in breakbulk volume during the fiscal year fourth quarter ended June 30 from the first nine months, according to the South Carolina Ports Authority.
The Union Pier Terminal handled 50,079 tons of non-containerized freight, mostly imports of steel wire rod and coils used to manufacture tires and steel billets, and exports of steel for construction, during the May-to-June period versus 27,109 tons for the earlier part of the year.
Earlier this year, Grieg Star Shipping began monthly service to Charleston, helping the port round out its business beyond containers. Since March, the terminal has handled 14 cargo vessels.
South Carolina is the largest tire exporting state in the nation, holding nearly 30 percent of the share of U.S.-made tires, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. Major manufacturers Michelin and Bridgestone have plants in South Carolina, and Continental Tire is building a factory in Sumter.
Many of the tires exported through Charleston are for giant earth-moving equipment used in the mining industry that move in open-top containers to places such as Brazil and Australia, SCPA spokeswoman Allison Skipper said.
"At Union Pier, we have more than 290,000 square feet of warehouse storage space to handle weather-sensitive cargo, like steel wire rod and coils and paper, as well as large lay-down areas suitable for traditional breakbulk," Chief Commercial Officer Paul McClintock, who is working to attract more breakbulk customers, said in a statement.
The Union Pier Terminal has more space after the port relocated roll-on/roll-off vessels to the Columbus Street Terminal, which was converted to a vehicle-handling and multi-use facility from a container facility in March 2011.
During fiscal year 2012, Charleston handled 1.12 million tons of bulk and breakbulk cargo, a 30 percent hike from the previous year. The South Carolina Port Authority estimates that volume will increase 10 percent in fiscal year 2014. - Eric Kulisch