The State Ports Authority sees 2018 as a key year in a massive plan to grow market share in the highly competitive Southeast market.

SPA goals

Above market growth for multiple years to come

Being the preferred U.S. port for carriers

Having ample and timely capacity

Being the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast


Attracting new business

Source: State Ports Authority

That was the message Jim Newsome, president and CEO of SPA, said during the annual State of the Port address before roughly 700 people Tuesday afternoon in North Charleston.

The year 2018

Officials are planning to have several key projects completed by 2018:

Complete deepening of Charleston Harbor from 45 to at least 50 feet.

Opening of $700 million new container port at former Navy base in North Charleston.

Opening of the intermodal yard to be operated by the state-run Palmetto Railways. The North Charleston facility will supply rail access for the Navy base terminal.

Source: SPA

Three major projects are expected to be completed in 2018, including the deepening of Charleston from 45 to at least 50 feet to handle larger cargo vessels from an expanded Panama Canal.

$2 billion port investments

Navy base terminal: $700 million*

Harbor deepening to 50 feet: $300 million

Port access road for Navy base terminal: $225 millon

Inland port in Greer: $50 million*

Other infrastrututre and & IT Projects: $600 million*

New dual access intermodal railhead in North Charleston: $130 million

*S.C. State Ports Authority investments

Source: State Ports Authority

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently studying the feasibility of deepening Charleston Harbor as deep as 52 feet.

Boatload of revenue

The State Ports Authority also reported operating revenue of $50.7 million in revenue through the first four months of the current fiscal year. That’s 0.2 percent better than planned and 11 percent above the same four-month span a year ago, officials said.

Since July 1, the SPA has handled 554,867 20-foot containers, which is up 6.4 percent compared with the same period last year.

An increased export traffic was driven by the rise in grain and agriculture products shipped through Charleston, while an extended peak season sustained growth on the import side, officials said.

Volume at SPA’s Georgetown operations was up 15.9 percent fiscal year to date over the same period last year, led by increased bulk and breakbulk steel business.

Source: SPA

Newsome said the 2018 timeline was his view. “That doesn’t mean the Corps study will show that, but I think timing wise (the other projects) can correlate with each other.”

He made the remarks following the nearly hour-long address during the Propeller Club of Charleston luncheon at the Charleston Area Convention Center. Newsome’s address touched on achievements and challenges for the state’s maritime agency.

The deeper waters add to SPA’s aggressive billion-dollar capital project that includes upgrading and adding new facilities over the next decade.

Other projects planned to be completed in 2018 include the $700 million new container terminal at the southern end of the old Navy base in North Charleston. The 280-acre base terminal will also include rail access. That will come with the 2018 opening of a $130 million nearby intermodal yard to be operated by the state-run Palmetto Railways.

Pam Zaresk, president of the Maritime Association of South Carolina, lauded the aggressive plans for 2018.

“I don’t think it’s all that far off,” she said. “It’s exciting and I think with all that analysis and if the trends stay the same, the Navy base terminal will be very important.”

Another piece of the capital project was the recent opening of SPA’s 100-acre “inland port” in Greer. The nearly $50 million rail project, a cost shared between SPA and Norfolk Southern is intended to grow efficiency and serve as a regional cargo hub.

“The inland port is served by overnight rail service provided by the Norfolk Southern railroad and creates a new rail origin and destination in the Southeast,” Newsome said. “With its location within 500 miles of nearly 100 million consumers, it is poised to create a significant distribution hub to foster the growth of commerce in the Upstate of South Carolina.”

Such projects are vital in SPA’s modernization of ports to meet the needs of larger vessels planned to call on Port of Charleston, Newsome said.

The other piece of the puzzle, Newsome said, is to grow business for shippers. Port of Charleston has been heading in that direction since it is labeled a top-10 U.S. container port. The label comes as SPA reported its operations grew 9 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, besting the 2 percent national average.

“We are the fastest-growing container port in the United States,” Newsome said.

Newsome’s address also included dedication to plans for a port in Jasper County and resolving litigation surrounding the expanded cruise operations in downtown Charleston.

Newsome said that plans for a new $35 million cruise terminal at Union Pier is needed and will remain a small piece of SPA’s operations.

“We will never grow to be a Venice,” he said. “We will never grow to be a Key West.”

Newsome’s comments came the same day lawyers were arguing their sides before the S.C. State Supreme Court in a case alleging that Carnival Cruise Lines operation violate Charleston city nuisance ordinances.