Agricultural exports boom business at port

Savannah-based Jimco uses special equipment to transfer bulk commodities such as grain from trucks or rail cars into shipping containers at the Port of Charleston.

Marion Bull

Agricultural exports through the Port of Charleston have been soaring, and on Thursday the Savannah-based Jimco Group announced that it has opened what will be the third bulk transload site for local terminals.

At bulk transload facilities, agricultural commodities that arrive by truck or train are loaded into shipping containers. Driven by demand from Asia, those export commodities have become an increasingly important part of the local port business.

Grain, for example, was hardly moving through the Port of Charleston just 18 months ago, but could now be the largest bulk export, the State Ports Authority board was told when it met this month.

One factor driving the development of transloading facilities is the availability of empty shipping containers, which are plentiful at the Port of Charleston, according to the SPA.

"We expect that exports will continue to increase, and Charleston is well-positioned to serve this growing business," said Paul McClintock, senior vice president and chief commercial officer of the SPA.

The new Jimco operation is adjacent to the agency's North Charleston Terminal at the South Carolina Public Railways' Remount Road facility.

"Our new Charleston facility gives farmers, agricultural interests and other bulk cargo shippers a new, cost-effective way to get their product to overseas buyers through a productive, deep-water port," said Jimmie Collins, president and founder.

Brad Ashton of Jimco said the facility will initially be operated with current employees from Savannah, but if business goes well, as expected, then 10 to 15 full-time jobs could be created in North Charleston.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.