The State Ports Authority reported increases in container and non-container cargo in 2011 compared to 2010, but financial results for the first half of the current fiscal year have been below projections.

In the 2011 calendar year, the SPA this week said it saw a sharp increase in non-containerized cargo, such as automobiles and heavy equipment, at its Charleston and Georgetown ports -- up nearly 55 percent over the prior year.

Containerized cargo, which is the bulk of the maritime agency's business, was up just slightly.

In the last six months of 2011, which represents the first half of the SPA's fiscal year, non-container cargo continued to show gains. But container volume slipped, falling below prior-year levels and 6.6 percent below projections.

Add it up, and SPA operating revenues for the first half of the fiscal year were better than in the comparable year-ago period, but at $64.6 million they were $2.7 million below budget expectations.

Earnings were more than 31 percent below budget, due to higher expenses related to gate operations.

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"We are continuing to experience a flat economic environment here in the U.S.," said Jim Newsome, president and chief executive officer of the SPA.

The ports authority has continued to press ahead with a capital improvement plan, and this week the SPA board of directors approved more than $5 million in new projects, including the construction of a $3 million, 100,000-square-foot warehouse at the Columbus Street Terminal, and new security fencing.

Columbus Street in downtown Charleston is the hub of the port's non-container business, including the luxury vehicles BMW makes near Spartanburg.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.