Charleston, SC – A bigger share of the South American market and rebounding exports are driving double-digit growth at the Port of Charleston.
Last year container volume through the Port of Charleston hit all time highs, reaching 1.48 million TEUs, up 16% from 1.27 million TEUs in 1998. Through the first quarter of 2000, container volume is up 17% to 391,000 TEUs, putting Charleston on a pace to top 1.5 million TEUs this year.
More than 40 container carriers serve 140 countries direct from Charleston, providing service diversity across trade routes, but Latin America has clearly been the dominant driver of this growth.
In 1999, Charleston’s South America business jumped 75% to well over 140,000 TEUs, Caribbean trade doubled and Central America volume was up 30%. Latin American trade through Charleston has grown eightfold since 1991, increasing its share of Charleston’s total port volume from 4% to 15%.
Behind Charleston’s increasing Latin American market share are several factors. To serve the Southeastern market carriers have begun using Charleston in favor of traditional hubs in South Florida. This trend has intensified as carriers seek to consolidate east-west and north-south services in fewer ports, and as more capital investment from firms doing business with Latin America pours into the Carolinas and Georgia.
Charleston’s Asia business, 28% of total throughput, is also strong with exports to Northeast Asia up 18% last year to nearly 140,000 loaded TEUs. Healthy exports of citrus products point to continued strength over the coming year. Imports from Northeast Asia increased 14% last year.
Inbound shipments from Asia, especially China, are expected to expand dramatically as more and more distribution centers are constructed in the region. This trend and local factors in West Coast ports are driving larger volumes of Asian goods all-water through the Panama Canal.
Although considered a “mature” trade lane, North Europe generated well over 40,000 TEUs in new business for Charleston last year and remains the port’s biggest market at 36% of total. Machinery, chemicals, resins, paper products, and auto parts for manufacturers such as DaimlerChrysler and BMW continue to be dominant cargoes. The other bright spot has been Med traffic, which increased 14% in 1999 primarily due to outbound cargo, and now represents 10% of total traffic. Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the India subcontinent each account for 3% of total volume.