Chilling: Cold-storage shipments heat up at port

Refrigerated cargo containers sit at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, where the State Ports Authority is adding more plug-in receptacles for the chilled boxes.

The State Ports Authority plans to install 292 additional electric receptacles at its cargo terminals to support an increase in refrigerated cargo, such as poultry and other agricultural products, moving through the Port of Charleston.

The additional capacity, to be added during the current fiscal year, will bring the total number of receptacles to 1,240 at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant and 512 at the North Charleston Terminal. The rack-mounted receptacles allow shippers to plug in their climate-controlled cargo boxes while they await transport to area warehouses.

“We’re going to have to expand our refrigerated cargo capacity on the port, we’re running out of plugs now,” SPA Chief Executive Jim Newsome said last week.

The port has reported a 35 percent increase in refrigerated cargo over the past four years, with 45,534 containers moving through Charleston in 2014. The state’s top agricultural export last year was fresh and frozen poultry, with $206 million worth of goods shipped from Charleston to worldwide markets.

Rounding out the top five cold cargo categories: fresh and frozen meats other than poultry; grapefruits and lemons; pharmaceuticals; and miscellaneous grocery products.

The increase in chilled cargo has spurred construction of nearly 560,000 square feet of new refrigerated warehouse space in the Charleston region.

Lineage Logistics of Colton, Calif., is about to start construction of a 340,000-square-foot warehouse at Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston. Agro Merchants Group in September opened a 121,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse in part of the former Piggly Wiggly distribution center near Summerville. And New Orleans Cold Storage is adding 96,000 square feet of cold storage space at its 55,000-square-foot warehouse in North Charleston.

Boeing Co. has more employees in South Carolina than most other states, and the North Charleston 787 Dreamliner maker spent nearly $279 million with suppliers and vendors throughout the state last year, according to the company’s annual “U.S. Impact” report.

The report is a statistical abstract showing Boeing’s state-by-state economic impact.

Washington state, the longtime home to most of Boeing’s commercial aircraft manufacturing centers, dwarfs all other states with 80,848 employees. South Carolina ranked No. 4 with 7,773 employees at the Dreamliner plant along International Drive and at the company’s propulsion and interiors centers at Palmetto Commerce Park off Ladson Road.

California (with 17,820 employees) and Missouri (14,798 employees) were No. 2 and No. 3. Boeing has facilities in those states that make parts for its commercial and military aircraft.

More than one-fifth of Boeing’s 332 South Carolina-based suppliers are in the Charleston region, the report states, including Sonoco Products, RMF Engineering, Dynamic Solutions and UEC Electronics.

All told, Boeing and the rest of South Carolina’s aerospace businesses, vendors and suppliers employ 53,000 workers and have a $17.4 billion economic impact, according to a study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.

Boeing’s “U.S. Impact” report also shows the company donated $5.9 million to charitable causes in South Carolina during 2014. That was the sixth-highest total in the nation, with Washington state charities reaping the biggest donations at $53.6 million.

Nationally, Boeing and its 152,000 employees donated $168 million to charities while the company spent almost $50 billion with U.S. suppliers and vendors.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_