An international corporation has snapped up a local maritime company in business for more than six decades with the promise of exponential growth at the Port of Charleston.

International Forwarders Inc. on Ashley River Road became part of Danbury, Conn.-based Odyssey Logistics and Technology on Thursday with an announcement at Waterfront Park by key state and local leaders.

Bob Shellman, Odyssey's president and chief executive, said his company, which moves cargo for customers, will handle $45 billion in goods this year through operations in North America, Europe and the Far East and exports from the United States to 200 countries around the world.

Asked what Odyssey will add to the 40-person staff at International Forwarders, Shellman said his corporation grows at 30 percent annually and plans to expand its Charleston operation at the same rate. He said Odyssey worked for six months on the deal and also considered similar business opportunities in North Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Odyssey officials then decided whether to keep the operations local.

"We're pleased to say there is no question Charleston is the place to be, the place to stay and the place to grow our business," Shellman said.

Jack Daniel, president of International Forwarders, said he sees the acquisition as a benefit to the local economy. He said International Forwarders, which launched in 1948, provides freight shippers with logistical services that aren't part of Odyssey's current business model.

At the same time, Odyssey brings a new universe of customers to International Forwarders

"I think it's going to present a lot of unique opportunities for our employees," said Daniel, who becomes executive vice president under the new operation. "We'll be part of a much larger group, able to compete on a much larger world stage."

Odyssey's acquisition came without significant financial incentives. State Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor said that's because "people don't go where they can get the most money but where they can make the most money."

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said Odyssey officials chose Charleston for quality of life.

"Every community wants Odyssey there," Riley said. "The competition is really intense. We won."

Thursday's news followed days of positive developments at the port. The largest ship ever to call on Charleston, Mediterranean's Shipping Co.'s 1,094-foot-long Northern Juvenile, pulled into town Monday.

The next day, the State Ports Authority reported its third consecutive year-over-year monthly gain in containerized freight, which was up more than 24 percent in March compared to the same period in 2009. Cargo volume last month came in at more than 11 percent higher than in February.

The agency also announced Tuesday that Charleston will be the last weekly outbound U.S. call -- and the only one among the nation's South Atlantic ports -- on CSAV's new America Express Service. The deal with the Chilean line will link the region directly to markets in northern China and South Korea.

Stepping to the podium Thursday, SPA chief executive Jim Newsome said, "It's really a collection of companies that make this place special."

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or