Port of Charleston
Jim Newsome, President, CEO, South Carolina Ports
FTZ No. 21 • 1,366 total acres 1.3 million sq. ft. warehouse space • 45-ft. channel
Rail: CSX, NS
Highways: I-26, I-526, I-95, U.S. 17
Top three export destinations: China, Germany, Netherlands
Top three export commodities: Forest Products, Chemicals, Agriculture Products
Jim Newsome: I would say that we are the only port that has the entire cost of its deepening project set aside by the state.
Global Trade: And how far along are you on that?
Jim Newsome: What I mean by that is that most harbor-deepening projects entail a cost share between the local sponsor and the federal government. Those projects are significant in cost; as an example our project is $300 million in cost and that’s on the cheap side, actually. So typically the federal government would pay $120 million of that, but in our case, because we are unsure as to what the federal government will appropriate for infrastructure in the future, our state took the unprecedented step in 2012 of putting the entire cost of the deepening project in an interest-bearing bank account.
GT: So how far along is the project?
JN: The project is more than halfway through the study, which will be finished in the summer of next year, then we will get a Chief’s report, hopefully, that is the outcome of the feasibility study report for the Chief of Engineers and then we are hopeful to be able to start construction right after that. So, we could be finished by 2018.
GT: And are you bringing in new cranes as well?
JN: We are buying some new cranes. We have ordered a couple; they are being manufactured in China right now. We will certainly have to order two more new cranes. So we’re today the deepest harbor in the Southeast. After our deepening project, we will continue to be the deepest harbor, the only port with about 50 feet or more of harbor depth. We’re the most productive container port in North America. We routinely handle more than 40 container moves per train hour.
GT: So this is how many your moving, not volume, right?
JN: Right. So that’s a measure, one of the measures of productivity is the number of containers that you handle in an hour per container crane.
It’s actually, I think, 43 to 45. We’ve just built a state-of-the-art inland port in the upstate of South Carolina in a place called Greer. That is offering overnight train service between Charleston and our most important importing and exporting region, which is the upstate of South Carolina. We handle BMW, the largest set-up vehicle exporter from manufacturer that exports from the United States, and those are mainly handled through our port.
GT: And I imagine that the port was a major reason that they chose Greer?
JN: I think so. If you consider that the other location, I wasn’t here at the time, was apparently Nebraska. So, I think we’ve played a pretty prominent role in that.
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