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Port Efficiency Off the Charts

Charleston, SC

April 14, 2000

Charleston, SC – After an all-time record month in March, Charleston is currently 50% more efficient than the typical U.S. port when it comes to land utilization.

Beyond crane productivity, or how many shipping containers can be loaded and unloaded from ships in an hour, ports can also be evaluated based on their effective use of land. While Charleston’s crane productivity has been renowned for years, it is now making waves in throughput per acre. This measure takes the total number of container TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent units, and divides it by the total acreage available for container storage.

The North American average for TEUs per acre is 2,455. In the first quarter of this year, the Ports Authority achieved a utilization rate equivalent to 3,678 TEUs per acre. This kind of productivity did not just happen over night. It has taken several years of hard work by SPA officials, stevedores, longshoremen, truckers and steamship lines.

The biggest change has been operating style. While many ports still predominantly use a “wheeled” operation where containers stay on the chassis, or trailer, the SPA has moved aggressively to a “grounded” operation where containers are densely stacked. This type of operation requires more handling equipment — and lots of it.

Over the past several years, the SPA has invested nearly $40 million in new container stacking equipment. The purchases have included 38 toplifting container handlers averaging $275,000 each and 13 new rubber-tired gantry cranes costing $1.34 million a
piece. Eight new RTGs are currently on order.

In addition to the new equipment, there were several other important initiatives:

  • Streamlined how trucks are checked in and out
  • Simplified electronic data interchange
  • Developed a new computer system to track containers in real-time
  • Added new lanes for trucks to enter and exit
  • Began stacking chassis to save more space
  • Extended truck gate hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Installed new signs and striped areas to ease traffic flow and add consistency
  • Added additional staff to container operations
  • Developed a new port-wide Cooperative Chassis Pool for carriers to share equipment
  • Constructed a new empty container yard

The SPA’s efforts over the past two years have been guided by the Container Terminal Development Strategy, which says the SPA should optimize utilization of existing terminals before constructing new capacity. This strategy was conceived over 10 months, as the SPA staff and leading industry consultants completed nine distinct tasks, such as a market assessment and operations analysis.

The resulting document is commonly referred to as the Mercer Report and spells out a two-pronged approach to handling port growth. First, improve existing terminals through incremental
investment in new technology and equipment. As a final step, pursue development of a new container terminal. It is this aggressive, space-stretching plan that the SPA hopes will allow it to accommodate moderate growth until 2007 when new capacity would be required.

The last two years have seen significant improvements to the Wando Welch, North Charleston and Columbus Street Terminals. But the SPA’s five-year capital plan considers another $150 million
investment in current port facilities so more changes and enhancements are yet to come. They will be required as the SPA seeks to squeeze every drop of capacity out of existing terminals.

Port of Charleston

Throughput Per Acre

 

Qtrly

Annlzed.

Pier Cntr.

Acres of

 

Thruput/

Thruput/

Prod.

TEUs

Storage

Acre

Acre

Gains


2000Q1

391,680

426

919

3,678

13%


1999Q1

334,138

411

813

3,252

2%


1998Q1

327,665

411

797

3,189

6%


1997Q1

295,030

391

755

3,018

9%


1996Q1

269,731

391

690

2,759

Press & Contact Information

Broadcast Media Inquiries:
Kelsi Brewer, Manager, Public & Community Relations
843-577-8676
kbrewer@scspa.com

Print Media Inquiries:
Liz Crumley, Manager, Corporate Communications
843-577-8121
lcrumley@scspa.com

200 Ports Authority Dr.
Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

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