SC Ports achieves record volumes in 2021


South Carolina Ports had its best calendar year in history in 2021 as the SC Ports team and broader maritime community efficiently handled an unprecedented amount of cargo.

“2021 was a truly banner year for South Carolina Ports,” SC Ports CEO Jim Newsome said. “Amid tremendous and ongoing supply chain challenges, we handled record-breaking cargo volumes, while consistently providing capacity and fluidity for our customers. The strength of our port continues to be in the quality of our workforce and excellent maritime community.”

SC Ports handled 2.75 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) at Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal and Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in 2021. This is a 19% increase from 2020 and a 13% increase from 2019.

SC Ports handled 1.53 million pier containers — which accounts for containers of any size — in 2021. This is an 18% increase from 2020 and a 11% increase from 2019.

SC Ports set monthly year-over-year container records for ten consecutive months in 2021, from March through December. Much of the cargo growth stems from consumers buying more retail goods during the pandemic.

SC Ports handled 1.29 million loaded import TEUs in 2021, up 25% from the year prior. A significant uptick in retail imports — including home goods, appliances, furniture, clothing and electronics — drove much of this growth at the Port of Charleston.

SC Ports handled 814,964 loaded export TEUs in 2021, up 5% from the year prior.

“Big retailers continue to grow, increasing their need for a reliable partner in the supply chain. SC Ports provides capacity for retailers as record retail imports flow into the Port of Charleston,” Newsome said. “By investing more than $2 billion in port infrastructure, SC Ports provides much-needed supply chain fluidity for customers.”

SC Ports’ two rail-served inland ports proved crucial to supply chain fluidity throughout the pandemic. Inland Port Greer handled a record calendar year with 160,234 rail moves, up 14% from 2020. Inland Port Dillon recorded 29,412 rail moves.

Automotive remained a steady segment for SC Ports in 2021, with 233,887 vehicles rolling across the docks at Columbus Street Terminal in support of global automakers. Vehicle volumes are up 6% from 2020.

“In 2021, we hired over 100 people in operations to support cargo growth and worked tirelessly to keep freight moving through the Southeast supply chain,” SC Ports COO Barbara Melvin said. “Our impressive cargo growth and efficient port terminals are made possible by our excellent port team, maritime community and logistics partners.”

Following a record-setting 2021, SC Ports sees big achievements on the horizon for 2022, including deploying 15 ship-to-shore cranes with 155 feet of lift height at Wando Welch Terminal; achieving full utilization of Phase One of Leatherman Terminal; completing the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project; initiating construction on the rail-served Navy Base Intermodal Facility and inner-harbor barge project; and advancing towards quick completion of the Inland Port Greer expansion project.

“SC Ports has the capacity and fluidity needed in today’s challenging supply chain,” Newsome said. “We are the only port in the country with a new container terminal, with the Leatherman Terminal adding an additional berth to the East Coast port market. We are continuing to enhance Wando Welch Terminal and we will soon have the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet. We look forward to developing near-dock rail with the Navy Base Intermodal Facility. Our future is very bright.”

Port growth creates jobs and investments throughout the state. SC Ports generates a $63.4 billion annual economic impact and creates 1 in 10 jobs in South Carolina, according to a 2019 study from the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business.

“Growth at SC Ports benefits South Carolina’s economy and spurs job creation in our communities,” SC Ports Board Chairman Bill Stern said. “We must work together to ensure South Carolina’s supply chain remains fluid and capable. Our shared vision makes us successful.”

December volumes

SC Ports finished 2021 with its strongest December on record. SC Ports handled 246,198 TEUs at the Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal and Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in December. This brings the total TEUs handled thus far in fiscal year 2022, from July through December, to 1.42 million, up nearly 17% year-over-year.

SC Ports moved 137,506 pier containers in December for a total of 787,869 pier containers thus far in fiscal year 2022, up nearly 17% year-over-year.

Inland Port Greer handled 12,217 rail moves in December for a total of 77,345 rail moves thus far in fiscal year 2022. Inland Port Dillon handled 1,490 rail moves in December for a total of 13,325 rail moves for the fiscal year.

In December, cruise operations resumed with the Norwegian Gem visiting the Port of Charleston. In January, SC Ports welcomes back its homeported ship the Carnival Sunshine.