Charleston Moves to More Than Double Space at North Container Terminal

   Release date: 22/03/2024     Hits: 3427    Comment: 0    
Note: SC Ports which operates the Port of Charleston, South Carolina announced plans for a major expansion that will more than

SC Ports which operates the Port of Charleston, South Carolina announced plans for a major expansion that will more than double capacity at its North Charleston Terminal. It is part of the state’s overall growth plans for its port operations and comes as other nearby ports including Savannah are also expanding creating strong regional competition in the southeast United States.

The SC Ports Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to move forward with a purchase sales agreement to acquire the former WestRock paper mill located adjacent to the North Charleston Terminal. The paper company permanently closed the facility at the end of August 2023, which employed approximately 500 people and produced 550,000 tons of containerboard and kraft paper.

The roughly 280-acre industrial waterfront property offers a natural extension of the container terminal that the board said will enable SC Ports to handle more cargo for port-dependent businesses. The current terminal facility handles about a quarter of the port’s container volume and is used for smaller ships under 8,000 TEU, while the larger vessels go to the new Leatherman terminal and the Wando Welch terminal, each capable of handling 20,000 TEU vessels.

The current facility sits on approximately 200 acres with a 500,000 TEU capacity. The additional land will expand the terminal’s capacity to handle five million containers in the future and create 5,000 feet of linear berth space for containerships and around 400 acres of terminal space for cargo.

SC Ports plans to modernize the existing North Charleston Terminal with an optimized layout, upgraded cargo-handling equipment, and significant new container capacity. Customers will also benefit from the on-terminal rail service offered by Palmetto Railways with dual connectivity to CSX and Norfolk Southern, and proximity to the Interstate highway system.

“This land purchase represents a tremendous opportunity to position our port system and our state competitively for decades to come,” said SC Ports Board Chairman Bill Stern.

The project is part of the larger, overall master plan for the Port of Charleston that seeks to expand capacity. They are also increasing the ability to handle large vessels.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation plans to replace the Don Holt Bridge, which will remove height constraints for larger vessels. At the same time, efforts are also moving forward to achieve a 52-foot depth up to the North Charleston Terminal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, has requested a feasibility study, a critical first step toward deepening this stretch of the Cooper River an additional five feet.

“Modernizing the terminal, raising the Don Holt Bridge, deepening the Cooper River, and purchasing the former WestRock property are all critical components that will yield a state-of-the-art North Charleston Terminal,” said SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin. The board highlights that the deepening effort, combined with the new bridge height, will allow the biggest containerships calling the Port of Charleston to access the North Charleston Terminal.

SC Ports handled nearly 2.5 million TEUs and 1.37 million pier containers in calendar year 2023, which was on par with 2019 pre-pandemic volumes, but down 11 percent from the peak in 2022. SC Ports also saw strength in other business segments in 2023, with the port handling 204,481 vehicles in 2023, up three percent year-over-year, and more than 302,000 cruise passengers, a 16 percent increase from 2022.

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