The State Ports Authority’s inland port proposed for the Greer area is a direct response to the BMW Manufacturing Co.’s needs and will be created with the help of a $7.5 million investment by rail carrier Norfolk Southern.
The SPA board agreed Tuesday to spend up to $25 million creating the Upstate facility, where containerized cargo could be transferred between trucks and railcars at the site and at the Port of Charleston. Another $1 million was authorized previously for engineering work on the site near the BMW auto plant.
“BMW basically (had) put out a bid for inland services,” said SPA President and CEO Jim Newsome. “Norfolk Southern approached us ... and we suggested activating the plan for an inland port.”
The auto manufacturer alone is expected to ship 20,000 to 25,000 containers to the facility by rail from Charleston, taking that many trucks yearly off of U.S. Interstate 26. Additional users of the inland port could double the shipments.
“I think we can achieve 50,000 within three years, and I would be disappointed if we don’t,” said Newsome.
BMW delivers automobiles to the Port of Charleston from the factory in drive-on, drive-off rail cars, but parts and other supplies arrive at the port in containers that make the 200-plus-mile trip to the Upstate on trucks. Those supplies are the cargo that could move by rail to the inland port.
“As we strive to meet future demand for our models produced in South Carolina, BMW continues to be engaged in the consideration of numerous ways to enhance our supply chain processes,” BMW spokesman Sky Foster said in a statement. “In keeping with the company’s commitment to sustainable growth, the South Carolina Ports Authority Inland Port in Greer offers a concept to meet BMW’s long-term strategy.”
The SPA had considered creating an inland port at various times since at least 1982, the year the land for the proposed facility near Greer was purchased. But until this year, the plans weren’t pursued, and in fact the SPA sold the majority of the land needed for the inland port facility in 2007.
The SPA owns about 30 acres at the site now, and is expected to negotiate with the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport Authority for more. The authority in 2007 bought 87 acres that had been part of the SPA property for $2.4 million.
Newsome said an agreement between the SPA and Norfolk Southern is nearly finalized, and he expects the inland port to be open by September, 2013. The SPA would own the facility, which would be served exclusively by Norfolk Southern.
The Virginia-based rail company did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.