Big ships

An OOCL container ship is docked at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant while an Evergreen ship passes. Container carriers had poor on-time performance during the first quarter of this year, according to a new report. Provided/State Ports Authority

Container ships are more frequently arriving late at the Port of Charleston and other seaports, according to a new report from SeaIntel Maritime Analysis.

The carrier reliability report shows container vessels worldwide arrived as scheduled just two-thirds of the time during the first quarter of 2018. That's down nearly 10 percent from the previous quarter and 6 percent lower than the same period a year ago.

Reliability on key Asia-to-East Coast routes, like those traveling to Charleston through the Panama  Canal, was worse — no carrier had an on-time record better than 50 percent. The OOCL shipping line, part of the Ocean Alliance that brings vessels carrying 14,000 cargo boxes to Charleston, was the most reliable carrier on those routes with a 46.7 percent on-time performance.

Reliability on the Asia-to-East Coast routes fell 21.1 percent from the previous quarter, according to SeaIntel.

"It's not just the big ships that are late — all the ships are late," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Charleston.

Erin Dhand, spokeswoman for the authority, said the agency does not keep statistics specific to the Charleston port.

Bad weather is being blamed for the poor performance in the first quarter. Newsome said there were only a few days during the quarter that some type of weather event in the North Atlantic didn't cause container ships to adjust their routes.

Wan Hai Lines had the best on-time performance in the first quarter at 80.6 percent, followed by Evergreen and APL at 71.3 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Maersk Line, the world's largest carrier and the top shipping line at the Charleston port, was on schedule 70.4 percent of the time.

Pilot problem

Harbor pilots in Charleston and Savannah say they are potentially at risk from a pair of conflicting federal mandates.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requires all vessels 65 feet or longer to be restricted to speeds of 10 knots or less — roughly 11.5 miles per hour — in East Coast locations where there's a threat of ship collisions with North Atlantic right whales, which are an endangered species.

Meanwhile, marine diesel engines required under Environmental Protection Agency standards can't be installed on pilot boats less than 65 feet long because of space restrictions.

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According to a report by IHS Fairplay, the regulations work against each other because harbor pilots need speed, maneuverability and throttling power but the larger vessels required by the EPA rule limits them to 10 knots. Harbor pilots say that impairs safety and efficiency, especially as shipping channels are deepened and pilots have to travel farther offshore to meet and board container ships.

"We can't sacrifice horsepower in a heavier sea-state when the purpose of the vessel is to board large ships," John Cameron, executive director of the Charleston Branch Pilots Association, told Fairplay. Cameron said pilot boats executing a board operation must be able to throttle higher than 10 knots to maintain positioning and avoid putting pilots' lives at risk.

Harbor pilots have petitioned the EPA for a waiver to the regulation, but the agency has not responded.

Building boom

South Carolina's industrial real estate market is showing "robust fundamentals" coinciding with increased manufacturing activity and more cargo moving through the Port of Charleston, according to a report by the Colliers International real estate group.

The Charleston area finished 2017 with more than 1.8 million square feet of industrial construction, equal to 3.8 percent of the market's total inventory, the report states. An additional 3 million square feet is scheduled for completion this year. That will boost the region's existing inventory by 6.2 percent in 2018.

The Greenville-Spartanburg market saw 5.3 million square feet of development in 2017, with an additional 2.5 million square feet scheduled for completion this year.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_