SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin delivers second annual state of the port address to nearly 900 attendees in Charleston. (Photo/Valerie&Ed Photography)
During her second State of the Port address, South Carolina Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin showcased how SC Ports is powerhouse port, serving as a powerful alternative gateway for cargo owners seeking a well-run port in the thriving Southeast market.
With more than $3 billion invested into port infrastructure, SC Ports is perfectly positioned to be the preferred port on the U.S. East Coast.
While addressing a packed room of more than 800 people, Melvin announced that SC Ports will add at least 2 million TEUs of additional capacity at the Port of Charleston by modernizing North Charleston Terminal, making it comparable to Wando Welch Terminal.
With upgraded cargo-handling equipment and an optimized terminal layout, the already-efficient container terminal offers future growth potential.
“We have the opportunity to enhance North Charleston Terminal and add capacity to an already-deepened asset to further support our customers’ supply chains,” Melvin said.
As part of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, the Cooper River has already been deepened up to North Charleston Terminal. This depth, combined with the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s plans to replace the Don Holt Bridge on Interstate 526, sets the stage for the modernization of North Charleston Terminal.
“A taller bridge and deepened harbor can accommodate larger vessels, and enhanced terminal capacity will drive growth,” Melvin said. “The South Carolina Department of Transportation is playing a pivotal role in this vision. We are excited to see this critical highway infrastructure project benefit the people who live here, as well as the businesses that depend on the port. These investments will support SC companies’ growth well into the future.”
SC Ports has strategically invested in critical capacity and capabilities, while continuing to provide reliable service and efficient operations to keep freight moving in the supply chain.
“We are experts at quickly working ships for ocean carriers and efficiently moving cargo for the businesses who entrust us to expertly handle their goods,” Melvin said. “We provide the service, speed and connectivity that our customers depend on to thrive.”
Cargo continues to flow from the U.S. West Coast to the U.S. East Coast port market, as companies seek predictability, reliability and access to the Southeast.
The Southeast market is booming, with more people moving into the region and businesses investing in new or expanding operations. Even as manufacturing and retail imports have declined across the U.S., the Southeast market continues to thrive with an influx of new residents and industrial growth.
“Port-dependent companies are investing in new operations, including advanced manufacturers, EV and battery manufacturers, solar panel producers, retailers, e-commerce sellers and import distribution centers,” Melvin said. “We have capacity for your supply chain, and as an operating port, we provide unmatched service to propel your supply chain.”
Investing for the future
With the ongoing growth in the Southeast, SC Ports is actively building port capacity and rail capabilities with the new Navy Base Intermodal Facility in North Charleston.
Significant progress has been made over the past year to prepare the site for new cargo-handling equipment, buildings and rail tracks. The state-of-the-art cargo yard will be served by CSX and Norfolk Southern when it opens in July 2025.
This near-port intermodal operation will further speed goods to market, alongside a future barge operation that will transport containers between port terminals.
“These critical infrastructure projects are made possible by $550 million in state funding,” Melvin said. “The South Carolina Legislature and Governor McMaster understand the key role our port plays in driving our state’s economy. When our port grows, our state thrives.”
SC Ports is also expanding rail-served Inland Port Greer to handle the incredible customer growth in the Upstate over the past decade. The expansion involves doubling cargo capacity and enhancing rail capabilities.
In the Lowcountry, Charleston now boasts the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet, capable of seamlessly handling fully loaded vessels at any tide.
SC Ports has also invested in its bustling ro-ro and breakbulk operation and high-performing container terminals in Charleston.
The modernized Wando Welch Terminal offers 15 155-foot-tall ship-to-shore cranes, giving each berth five massive ship-to-shore cranes to quickly work three ships at one time. The state-of-the-art Leatherman Terminal stands ready with 700,000 TEUs of capacity to further support U.S. supply chains.
“As a state, this all makes us more competitive. When we build port capacity, we attract more businesses, investments and jobs to our communities,” Melvin said. “These strategic investments have generational impact across our entire state. SC Ports is proud to keep freight moving for South Carolina.”
Driving economic growth
Melvin highlighted how port investments drive economic growth in South Carolina, creating generational opportunities for South Carolinians.
A new study found that having a world-class port in South Carolina makes a nearly $87 billion statewide economic impact each year, according to Dr. Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist and professor at the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business, who authored the study.
The 2023 SC Ports’ Economic Impact Study found that port activities support 1 in 9 jobs in South Carolina, meaning that 260,000 S.C. jobs are tied — directly or indirectly — to port operations and port users. These jobs account for both those employed by the port and maritime industry, and those working at port-dependent businesses around the state, like advanced manufacturers or retail distribution centers.
“We have remained incredibly competitive as the 8th largest port in the country, and when port-dependent businesses thrive, it creates opportunities in our communities,” Melvin said. “This growth is thanks to our best-in-class customers, industry partners, visionary state and elected leaders, strong supporters, incredible Board of Directors, and the most amazing port teammates and maritime community in the country.”
About South Carolina Ports
South Carolina Ports owns and operates marine terminals at the Port of Charleston and two rail-served inland ports in Greer and Dillon. As the 8th largest U.S. container port, SC Ports connects port-dependent businesses throughout the Southeast and beyond to global markets. SC Ports proactively invests in infrastructure ahead of demand to provide reliable service, efficient operations, cargo capacity, an expansive rail network and the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet. SC Ports is a vital economic engine for South Carolina, with port operations supporting 1 in 9 jobs statewide. Learn more: scspa.com.
SC Ports Media Contact:
Director, Corporate Communications
SC Ports Authority
Manager, Public Relations
SC Ports Authority