July 25, 2017: On July 25th, our club was treated to a tour of the SC Ports Authority Wando Terminal. Bill Crowther, Director of Container Operations, welcomed Rotarians and briefly discussed the Port before members took a tour of the Port by bus.
Mr. Crowther has been with the Port for over 22 years. His main responsibility is to coordinate and handle all aspects of logistics for the Charleston Port and its inland facilities. The Charleston Port is the most efficient port on the east coast and has seen significant improvements over the last several years. Between 2011 and 2016 the Port saw an increase of 45% in the volume it handled. With the addition of the inland port in Greer the total 2017 volume has been on a record pace and expects to surpass the 2016 record of over 100,000 lifts (of containers).
2017 has had some major changes including 2 new cranes at the Wando terminal, a new inland Port in Dillon, SC, a new distribution center for Michelin, and the harbor deepening project which will allow bigger ships to come to the port. With these larger ships and Charleston’s low costs and efficiency the port expects strong growth over its competitors. For example, the Norfolk port charges $100 more per container than Charleston. In addition, truck turn around times in Charleston are significantly less than other ports. Charleston averages 25 minutes from e time a truck enters the port, gets its cargo, and leaves the gate. This means less expenses for shipping companies so they like calling on the Charleston Port.
The Port is not done yet. It is currently planning $25B of investments by 2021. These include renovating its docks to handle the bigger ships and building the new $770M Leatherman terminal. In addition the deepening project has recently received approval. This will take the depth to 52 feet making it the deepest channel on the SE coast. This project cost $530M and will start in the fall of 2017.
Security has been a major focus on the port. All cargo is manifested and everyone entering the gates has to have a federal background check. Several years ago the port invested in massive security improvements including new gates, computerized scanners, and sophisticated security systems.
The tour continued to the docks where it was explained that a ship can be unloaded and loaded in 8-10 hours and spends on average only 14 hours at port. This is a major change from the past when ships sat at port for days.
With the improvements to the channel for larger ships along with the dockside and logistic improvements the success of the port is sure to continue and be a vibrant economic source for the Charleston region.
— Steve Coe, Keyway Committee