The Port of Charleston and other Southeast seaports had varied results in November, with trade uncertainties and a late Thanksgiving weighing on the number of cargo containers moving through most terminals.
Charleston notched a 2 percent drop in containerized goods last month, moving the equivalent of 184,928 20-foot-long boxes through North Charleston Terminal and Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant. Despite the drop, the port is 5.6 percent ahead of the year-to-date total.
Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority, had been expecting the decline but said volume should pick up again in the new year because of ongoing strength in the U.S. economy and local efforts to add more retail and agricultural exports to the port's cargo base.
The Port of Savannah, on the other hand, saw a 5.4 percent boost in cargo in November as the seaport recorded its fifth-straight monthly increase.
Container volumes were down in Norfolk, where the Port of Virginia said it saw 5 percent fewer containers last month.
"The trade environment continues to present challenges and we are adapting," said John Reinhart, CEO of the Virginia Port Authority. On a year-to-date basis, cargo is up 3.8 percent.
Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, attributed Savannah's increase to more capacity at the Garden City Terminal and a "streamlined movement of containers from vessel to departing rail."
The Savannah port has set cargo records in 36 of the last 38 months.
Charleston recorded increases in other cargo categories in November, including 25.6 percent more vehicle exports — primarily BMWs built in Spartanburg County — and 33,316 cruise ship passengers, more than double last year's total. The increase is due, in part, to Carnival Cruise Line operating a newer and larger ship on cruises from Charleston than a year ago.
South Carolina's inland ports continue to see double-digit, year-to-date growth although the Greer site had 188 fewer containers moving between trucks and Norfolk Southern rail cars last month. The inland port in Dillon, which is served by CSX Corp. trains, had 437 more containers than a year ago.