State Ports Authority takes top port, terminal awards

The State Ports Authority's North Charleston terminal was named the nation's most productive terminalin 2014 by the Journal of Commerce

The State Ports Authority took home awards for the top U.S. port and the nation’s top terminal during this week’s Journal of Commerce Productivity Awards, the industry publication announced.

The top port award went to the Port of Charleston while the terminal award went to the SPA’s North Charleston Terminal.

Bill McLean, senior vice president of operations for the SPA, said in a YouTube video the journal produced announcing the awards that the port’s success can be tied to its reliable operations.

“It helps us very much to define our brand,” McLean said. “We have reliability, we have low cost (and) vessel operators are able to plan their itineraries around our productivity. It’s a very dependable, reliable, low-cost operation.”

David Hoffman, manager of the North Charleston Terminal, said layout is the key to that operation’s productivity.

“In my mind, I think it’s a three-tiered approach,” Hoffman said in the video. “You have a planning side, you have a gate side and you have a deep side, or vessel side. The planning that my supervisors put in to getting the yard laid out the way it needs to be laid out so we can operate efficiently from the gate and the vessel side gives us an advantage over most other ports.”

Container volume in Charleston increased 12 percent in 2014, with December an especially strong month with container volume up 14 percent compared to a year earlier. Jim Newsome, the SPA’s president and CEO, told a state Senate committee Wednesday that the port is operating close to pre-recession levels.

The potential for increased business has spurred several new projects at the port, according to McLean.

“We’re buying two new container cranes for the short-term for Wando (terminal), we’re moving some cranes from Wando to North Charleston to do some improvements there, we’re doing some wharf rehabilitation to support 14,000 TEU ships, we have a billion dollar container terminal under construction that’s going to be open, hopefully, by 2020,” McLean said. “And the biggest thing is we’re deepening our harbor to 52 feet (from 47 feet), hopefully to be done by the end of the decade.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is completing feasibility studies for the harbor deepening, including the chief’s report which will be used to lobby Congress for money to help pay for the $509 million project. The chief’s report is expected to be finished this fall.

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