South Carolina Ports reported a record April for cargo handled at the Port of Charleston.

The South Carolina Ports Authority said it moved 225,137 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) across the Wando Welch, North Charleston and Hugh K. Leatherman terminals, a 27.8% year-over-year increase. 

The SCPA said loaded imports were up 27% year-over-year in April, from 82,899 TEUs to 105,045 TEUs, and loaded exports were up nearly 30%, from 56,611 TEUs to 73,337 TEUs. Empty import containers were down from 5,178 TEUs in April 2020 to 4,497 TEUs this year. Empty export containers were up, from 31,463 TEUs to 42,249 TEUs. 

“Companies needing to quickly import and export goods benefit from the available capacity at SC Ports,” CEO Jim Newsome said in the SCPA’s press release. “We have invested significantly in our infrastructure, including enhancing Wando Welch Terminal and opening Leatherman Terminal, to ensure Charleston can handle the biggest ships and growing cargo volumes coming to the East Coast.”

The SCPA didn’t break out TEUs handled per terminal, particularly at the now-open Leatherman, which is at the center of an International Longshoremen’s Association lawsuit over the use of nonunion labor at the facility. Some shipping lines have indicated they would steer clear of the Leatherman Terminal until the labor dispute was resolved. The SCPA’s schedule at midday Wednesday showed eight vessels berthed or slated to arrive in the next 36 hours at Wando Welch, three at North Charleston, one at Columbus Street and none at Leatherman.     

The April total volume was down from March, when the SCPA turned in the best monthly cargo-handling performance in its history by moving 248,796 TEUs. 

April 2020 volume had been hit by the pandemic-caused shutdown of the automotive industry. The turnaround was evident in the 143.1% year-over-year jump in the number of vehicles handled this April. The SCPA said 21,966 vehicles rolled across the docks at the Columbus Street Terminal in April. 

The press release said South Carolina’s two rail-served inland ports continue to perform well, with a combined 16,244 rail moves at Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon in April. Inland Port Greer’s volume was up 85.2% year-over-year, while Dillon’s was down 2.4%. 

The SCPA has announced plans to expand Inland Port Greer, which extends the Port of Charleston’s reach into upstate South Carolina with Norfolk Southern rail. The ports authority has said both inland ports enable goods to move swiftly from the Port of Charleston via rail. Trucks then move the goads throughout the Southeast and Midwest. 

“As the global supply chain continues to feel strained, it is evident that SC Ports invested in the right infrastructure at the right time,” Newsome said in this week’s volumes report. “We have the capacity, big-ship capabilities and deep harbor today to handle cargo influxes.”

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