The last two months at the Port of Charleston have been among the busiest in years, the State Ports Authority reported to its board of directors Wednesday.
Port officials had been expecting a recovery this year, and the latest monthly figures offer some hope that their projections won’t be far off when the fiscal year closes at the end of June.
So far, SPA revenues are up nearly 6 percent, but haven’t met expectations. The same goes for container traffic, which is up less than 2 percent for the fiscal year. Non-container cargo continues to be a bright spot. From BMW automobiles and machinery coming through Charleston to bulk cement shipped from Georgetown, cargo tonnage is up nearly 24 percent this year and well ahead of budget.
The Charleston port also has attracted three new shipping services so far this year — two serving Asia and one serving Europe — and SPA chief executive Jim Newsome said negotiations are under way with two more.
“Of course, we want to get more services, but to do that you have to grow the pie,” Newsome told the board at its monthly meeting in Charleston. “The underlying business effort is to get more cargo for our port.”
In April more than 71,000 containers moved through the port. The prior month was the busiest for container traffic since October 2008.
The growth in cargo is attracting shippers, and more shipping options attract cargo, such as the giant tires being manufactured in South Carolina for mining operations overseas.
Last week marked the start of a three-year schedule of shipments related to the construction of two new reactors at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, north of Columbia. A total of about 30 ships will deliver machinery and equipment for the Midlands expansion, with some pieces weighing up to 700 tons.
In other business Newsome said he’s pleased with the progress of efforts to deepen the Charleston Harbor, so that it may handle larger ships. A study of the plan is ongoing.
“Infrastructure now includes ports, in discussions in Washington, and a year ago it did not,” he said.
SPA Chairman Bill Stern agreed.
“The message is getting out there,” he said.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.