Norway firm buys Cooper River site

Waterfront views were required for a Scandinavian company that was in the market to buy land for a shipping terminal that will handle liquid chemicals.

Luckily, it's a buyer's market.

Odfjell Terminals LLC purchased 20 acres of real estate along the heavily industrialized strip of Virginia Avenue in North Charleston. The abandoned site includes a 500-foot stretch along the Cooper River where the company can dock a transport ship, hook the vessel up to offloading equipment and pump in liquid chemicals.

The company paid $7.8 million in the recently closed sale, according to Charleston County property records.

Starting up the new operation is expected to cost about $30 million and create at least 12 jobs, according to estimates provided to Charleston County.

Odfjell has asked elected officials for tax breaks in return for its investment.

The company has said it also is considering an expansion within three to four years that would raise the value of the project to $70 million and add 17 more employees, according to the county. That would bring its total North Charleston payroll to $1 million, or an average of about $34,500 per job.

The county has estimated that the two expansions would generate $5 million to $9 million in public revenue over 20 years.

Transportation companies that want to bring large amounts of liquids to Charleston by ship don't have many options. The State Ports Authority doesn't operate liquid storage tanks at its local terminals, so businesses seeking to import or exports liquids have to put their products in containers instead.

"We've left the liquids bulk stuff to private terminal operations," said SPA spokesman Byron Miller.

That helped sell the former Charleston Cement Co. site, said Hagood Morrison of the commercial real estate firm Colliers Keenan International, who brokered the sale with Amanda Kitchen.

"I think you're going to see continued growth in the private sector when it comes to non-container activity, and they should be able to compete well against port authorities," Morrison said.

It is not known which specific liquids Odfjell's first East Coast import terminal will handle. The Norway-based company said on its website that it transports chemicals, acids, edible oils and other special products.

Odfjell owns and operates tanker ships and port terminals around the world, but its only U.S. operation is in Houston. Company officials in Texas could not be reached Tuesday.

The newly purchased site includes access to CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad lines.

Charleston Cement, which stopped using the facility about three years ago, left the site dotted with aging circular storage tanks. All but two were demolished during the last year.

The site was initially marketed for about $12 million, according to an expired listing on commercial real estate site LoopNet.com. The actual sale price represented a 35 percent markdown.

Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549.