South Carolina Ports Authority celebrated a banner year for its Port of Charleston complex.

The port system handled a record 2.55 million TEUs in its fiscal year that ended on June 30, a 9.6% increase from fiscal year 2020, at the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch, North Charleston and Hugh K. Leatherman terminals.

Although fiscal year 2021 kicked off last July 2020 amid nationwide business shutdowns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports) and others soon afterward faced an unanticipated boom in imports as consumers’ buying habits shifted from services and travel to retail and home goods, SC Ports said Tuesday.

As a result, SC Ports experienced record monthly year-over-year container volumes between March and June 2021, including volume strength in SC Ports’ containerized, vehicle and inland port business segments. 

“While the global pandemic has placed great strain on global supply chains, it has also highlighted how incredibly vital maritime, motor carrier and logistics workers are to the supply chain,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “They are keeping freight moving while handling unprecedented cargo increases. We owe them much gratitude for their hard work over the past year.”

In fiscal year 2021, SC Ports moved 1.42 million pier containers, a 7.7% increase year-over-year. 

Vehicle volume at the Columbus Street Terminal was 253,981 vehicles, a 27% increase from fiscal year 2020.

Meanwhile, SC Ports’ two rail-served inland ports set cargo records, with recorded rail moves up 11.7% to 192,844. Of this, Inland Port Greer moved 12.6% more year-over-year, at 157,842 rail moves, while Inland Port Dillon rail moves rose nearly 7.9% to 35,002.

Besides experiencing record volumes in fiscal year 2021, SC Ports noted on Tuesday additional milestones for the year.

It began an expansion at Inland Port Greer, made additional enhancements to the Wando Welch Terminal and “saw significant progress” with the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, which will yield 52 feet of depth in 2022, SC Ports said.

SC Ports also noted that phase one of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal began operations in March. The terminal is the first greenfield container terminal to open in the U.S. since 2009, and it adds a 1,400-foot berth and 700,000 TEUs of capacity to the Port of Charleston, SC Ports said.

“We have planned our capacity well for the next decade and beyond with the infrastructure that we are delivering,” Newsome said. “In fiscal year 2022, we will continue to invest in our port to provide more capacity and reliability for our customers as we grow above the market. We have the best team and maritime community to accomplish our goals in the year ahead.”

June is busting out all over

June volumes were also a record for SC Ports, with its container business moving 231,758 TEUs, a 48.1% increase from June 2020 and a 15.6% increase from June 2019.

The Port of Charleston handled 128,622 pier containers in June, which is up 44.5% from June 2020 and up 13.8% from June 2019. 

Vehicles handled totaled 23,096, a 60.7% increase from June 2020 and a 25.3% increase from June 2019.

June rail moves at Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon were 13,383 and 2,593, respectively.

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