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Port: Inland port needs more cranes to handle growth

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By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 24, 2015

The S.C. Inland Port in Greer needs more crane infrastructure to keep pace with the 211% year-over-year rail volume growth, according to officials with the S.C. State Ports Authority.

The inland port hit record volumes in July with about 7,500 rail moves completed. The Upstate terminal handled around 58,000 total rail moves in fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30.

The inland terminal — which is run by the ports authority and located next to BMW Manufacturing Co. in Greer — currently has three rubber-tired gantry cranes to transport containers between trucks and trains.

The S.C. State Ports Authority voted to move two rubber-tired gantry cranes like this one from the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant to the S.C. Inland Port in Greer. (Photo/file)The S.C. State Ports Authority voted to move two rubber-tired gantry cranes like this one from the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant to the S.C. Inland Port in Greer. (Photo/file)
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These cranes are maxed out, making it difficult for truckers to maintain short turn times and for trains to run on time, said Bill McLean, the port’s vice president of operations. The rail-truck cargo transfer facility, which opened in November 2013, moves cargo from the Upstate to the Lowcountry via rail.

To help move cargo faster, the ports authority board unanimously voted on Wednesday to relocate two rubber-tired gantry cranes from the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant to the S.C. Inland Port in Greer, giving the Upstate port five cranes altogether.

The ports authority board awarded a $530,000 contract to Kalmar to disassemble, transport and reassemble the cranes in Greer. The board did not solicit bids for the project. The board previously hired Kalmar, then known as Cargotec, for the relocation of the initial three cranes now operating at the inland port.

Terminal improvements

The ports authority board also voted Wednesday to invest in wharf repairs at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant and a refrigerated container storage area at the North Charleston Terminal.

The board awarded a $38 million contract to Wando-based Cape Romain Contractors to improve and repair the 1970s-era Mount Pleasant terminal wharf to accommodate larger ships and cranes.

The work will be performed in four phases through December 2017 to keep two berths operational at all times, board documents show.

The board also awarded a $3.4 million contract to North Charleston-based Banks Construction Co. to convert part of the existing chassis yard at the North Charleston Terminal into a refrigerated container area to handle refrigerated or frozen cargo, known as reefer cargo.

Reefer volumes have been steadily increasing at the Port of Charleston, up 35% at the Port of Charleston from calendar years 2011 to 2014. The work will begin next month to install 132 reefer receptacles and more electrical infrastructure.

Fiscal 2015 financials

The ports authority reported 2015 fiscal year-end operating earnings of about $30 million, up 113% from the year prior, and revenue of roughly $197 million, up about 20% from the last fiscal year. Total expenses were $166 million for the period ending June 30, up about 11%.

“The strong financial performance achieved during the 2015 fiscal year reflects the SCPA’s focus on achieving the growth required to execute its aggressive capital investment plan,” board Chairman Bill Stern said in a statement.

Fiscal 2016

For the first month of fiscal 2016, the ports authority reported about $19 million in revenue, $5.7 million in operating earnings and about $13 million in total expenses. Roughly 20,000 passengers came through the port and 173 ships docked at Charleston terminals last month.

Around 99,000 pier containers — total boxes, regardless of size — came through the ports authority’s terminals in July, up about 13% from the same time last year.

The ports authority handled 175,000 20-foot equivalent units — also called TEUs, the common industry measurement that counts every 20 feet worth of container — in July, up 14% from last year.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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