South Carolina?s premier port in Charleston provides manufacturers with virtually unlimited choices for exploring new markets across the earth.
The numbers on waterborne commerce in South Carolina are staggering – $33 billion in goods annually; 700 importers and exporters from every county; 83,000 employees; 1.6 million containers a year; and seven ships every day.
But behind the numbers, facts and statistics lies the real story of what a successful competitive port system means to South Carolina – market access. Today, manufacturers ship by ocean from Charleston to more than 150 nations around the world. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, if you have a customer or supplier there, you can reach them directly from South Carolina?s coast.
Only a short drive or train trip separates any site in South Carolina from the rest of the world. The value of proximity to markets is especially important in today?s environment when almost every business is global in nature. The South Carolina State Ports Authority?s mission is to help companies take advantage of the many prospects that exist across the oceans.
In its most recent fiscal year completed June 30, the Ports Authority?s marine terminal facilities in the Port of Charleston handled a record 1.6 million 20-foot long container units. This places Charleston fourth nationally, behind only the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey. The Ports Authority also posted record revenues and earnings.
The success of the Port of Charleston is somewhat understood, but nonetheless is too often taken for granted. It was the eighth consecutive record year for the Port?of Charleston and one that was filled with great business success, yet also rife with high profile conflict and controversy.
On one hand, the world?s largest ocean carrier named the Port of Charleston as the most productive seaport in the Western Hemisphere and second only to Hong Kong?globally. On the other hand, a port opponent in the General Assembly proposed binding the Ports Authority with new procurement restrictions.
On one hand, the Ports Authority became the first seaport on the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast?to feature service from each of the world?s ten largest ocean carriers. On the other, the Ports Authority responded to local opposition and withdrew its original application for port expansion on Daniel Island.
To meet the needs of manufacturers while addressing local quality of life concerns, a compromise has emerged for a much smaller port expansion project on the Cooper River side of Daniel Island. Private sector investment has been invited and proposals are due September 7. From the subsequent negotiations, a new project can be defined.
Approval from the General Assembly is also required, as well as permitting approval by various state and federal agencies. Considering the fact that only moderate growth will saturate port capacity by 2006 to 2008, time is certainly of the essence.
In the interim, the Ports Authority continues to seek new and better ways of using its existing facilities.?In the next 12 months, capital improvements will total more than $45 million. Considering Charleston is already three times as productive as the average U.S. port when it comes to land utilization, the intensity of space use is approaching the maximum sustainable levels.
Also important is the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project. It is ahead of schedule and is below budget due in large part to the support of the S.C. Chamber, but there remains $25 million in state funding that is required.
Many say that advances in communications and transportation over the past several decades have served to shrink the globe and make it smaller. While it is certainly true that ideas and products flow quicker than ever before, these same advances show us just how much opportunity still remains untapped.
Isolationists today falsely attempt to paint international trade as a vicious cycle founded on cheap labor and resulting in pollution, lost jobs and hurt families. The fact is that our world offers endless prospects for individuals to make their own way, building better lives for them and their families. The Ports Authority is capable of serving this pursuit, but requires the support of manufacturers across South Carolina.