Earnings 5.4% below expectations

The State Ports Authority said its revenue was $102.7 million for the first nine months of its fiscal year, about 5% more than a year ago but 5.4% below projections. CEO Jim Newsome said a key reason the number fell short of expectations was tied to rate promotions used to entice shippers.

Box volume was up 10% over the same period last year, with the equivalent of slightly more than 1.16 million 20-foot-long containers handled in the July-March period. The Port of Charleston is seeing its strongest volume gains in that business in five years, the SPA said.

Noncontainerized facilities in Charleston and Georgetown handled more than 1.2 million pier tons of cargo from July to March, up 14.5% from fiscal year 2012.

Tyrone Richardson

The State Ports Authority will pump another $12.9 million into an Upstate cargo yard it is developing, increasing its portion of the project by nearly 50 percent.

The agency also said the so-called inland port would open in Greer on schedule in September, despite an escalating legal dispute with a tenant that leases part of the site. That company is seeking a court order to halt plans to condemn the property.

The SPA’s board voted unanimously to increase its financial share of the project at its meeting Tuesday in Charleston.

The original estimate for the roughly 30-acre development was $33.6 million, with $26.1 million coming from SPA and a maximum of $7.5 million coming from rail hauler Norfolk Southern. New estimates raise the price to as high as $47.4 million, with about $39 million coming from the SPA.

SPA staff said the extra $12.9 million includes the acquisition of more property to increase the size of the yard to about 40 acres.

The agency broke ground March 1 on the inland port, where shipping containers will be transferred between trucks and Norfolk Southern rail cars running to and from Charleston. Officials have estimated that it will handle about 40,000 boxes in its first year.

“What we have is a much more robust facility than initially planned,” said Jim Newsome, the SPA’s chief executive officer. “We have designed and will construct the inland port to bring optimum benefit to our customers and a greater return on investment over the longer term.”

The project has triggered a legal dispute with a warehouse business that rents part of the site. The SPA voted last month to seek to force Nordic Cold Storage to move by condemning and demolishing its building.

Lawyers for Nordic filed a lawsuit in Spartanburg County Circuit Court on April 11, challenging the condemnation plan.

The complaint said Nordic told SPA in November that it could move, but that it would require up to nine months to find a new site. SPA officials said that same month that they would be able to work around the warehouse, and that the container yard would “enhance” the company’s business, according to the document.

In February, the SPA informed the company “it needed to find a new home quickly and could not stay at the location,” the lawsuit alleged.

Nordic said it has been looking for an alternate site, but it had not been able to find one yet. CEO Don Schoenl was not available to comment Tuesday.

Newsome issued a written statement Tuesday about the legal tussle.

“We are disappointed we could not reach a positive resolution on the lease issue with Nordic without it causing any delays for the inland port project, which is being constructed to benefit many manufacturing and distribution facilities located in the Upstate,” Newsome said. “We hope any interruption is minimal, as this facility is a critical infrastructure project for our state.”