The S.C. State Ports Authority’s increased marketing efforts for Union Pier Terminal in downtown Charleston are proving beneficial, the agency said Wednesday.
Union Pier handled 50,079 tons of non-containerized freight between April and June. The cargo of mostly steel wire rod and coils for tire production marked an 85 percent increase from the 27,109 tons of cargo handled in the preceding nine months of the fiscal year that ended June 30, SPA officials said today.
“We’ve been aggressive in recruiting breakbulk in an ongoing effort to diversify the port’s business,” said Paul McClintock, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for the SPA. “We’re exporting a large amount of steel used in construction. On the import side, we are seeing steel wire rod and coils used to manufacture tires, which is a large and growing segment in the state.”
SPA officials have said Union Pier is attractive for non-containerized cargo due to its more than 290,000 square feet of warehouse space to handle weather-sensitive cargo, like steel wire rod and coils and paper.
The uptick in cargo at Union Pier Terminal comes as litigation has stalled SPA’s plans for a new cruise terminal at the site.
Union Pier has been eyed for several redevelopment plans in recent decades.
The latest concept was unveiled in February 2010. The SPA-commissioned plan called for demolishing most of the buildings and opening up some 50 acres of valuable waterfront land for public use and redevelopment. It also showed the cruise ship terminal moving to Building 322.
A few years ago, SPA shifted much of its break bulk business — including South Carolina-made BMW exports — to the larger Columbus Street Terminal a few hundred yards north.
Starting last summer, some of that cargo began floating back to Union Pier.
Earlier this year, Greig Star Shipping announced it will use Union Pier for its new monthly break bulk service from South America.
The SPA chief executive Jim Newsome has said growing cargo at Union Pier Terminal is due to the improving economy and demand for goods to supply developing nations. Competing ports in states such as Georgia and Virginia have reported growing break bulk business as well.
Charleston’s non-container facilities handled 1.1 million tons of cargo in the last fiscal year, up 30 percent from the previous year. The SPA is expecting a 10 percent increase in non-containerized cargo at the Port of Charleston during the next 12 months.
The 65-acre Union Pier Terminal was planned to have a shiny new cruise terminal up and running in the 108,000-square-foot Building 322 warehouse by mid-2012, replacing the aging structure at the south end of the pier, near the historic City Market.
The rest of the waterfront property was to be redeveloped for homes, businesses and parks.
Local neighborhood groups and environmentalists have filed federal and state lawsuits to block the $35 million cruise terminal plan, saying it will bring more tourists, traffic congestion and fumes to the historic district.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC