The shipping world is changing, and it's up to the Port of Charleston to be ready.
That was the message from some speakers during the second annual S.C. Supply Chain Summit hosted Friday by the College of Charleston School of Business.
The all-day event was intended to forge collaborations between academia and companies to help develop a strategy to meet the needs of businesses that rely on the efficient, rapid movement of goods in the state.
Jim Newsome, chief executive of the State Ports Authority, said there remains a need to be prepared for larger ships calling on the Port of Charleston.
The larger ships are the result of shippers seeking ways to lessen the cost to ship each cargo container.
Newsome said preparedness includes deepening Charleston Harbor, growing capacity at SPA's Charleston terminals and improving relations with the trucking industry, a key piece of the shipping industry.
"Trucking is a strategic issue, and every container moves by truck. It may move by rail in between, but ultimately it is delivered to the client by truck," Newsome said. "The industry and I have been short-sighted with how we interact with truckers."
The trucking industry has been peppered with recent problems, including new federal regulations that limit the hours for truck drivers.
The industry also is facing a shortage of drivers, an issue that is exacerbated by applicants who can't pass background checks and a reluctance among younger workers to be on the road for extended periods, experts have said.
"If we don't treat them better, we will not have the truck capacity to move containers in the future," Newsome said.
He also touted the greater dependency on rail to move cargo, which includes SPA's recently opened, so-called inland port in Greer.
"We have to be a more rail-capable port," he said. "Our rail volume is up 15 percent for this port, and that's strategic."
Newsome added that SPA is looking to overhaul its existing terminals for added capacity, a move that could mean extended gate hours to allow more cargo to flow from the facilities.
Sam Woodward, president and CEO of Horizon Lines shipping company, said Charleston is well positioned to grow capacity.
He said the state should deepen Charleston Harbor from 45 to 52 feet to dominate the highly competitive Southeast market.
Deepening of the Charleston Harbor is being studied by the Army Corps of Engineers. The SPA wants to deepen the shipping lane to 50 feet, a $300 million project planned to be completed by 2018.
"If you look at what a carrier needs, you need 52 feet, not 50 or 48 feet," Woodward said. "If you want to be the supply chain's solution and have the jobs that go with it, I vote for that."
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or tyrichardsonPC@twitter.com.
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