Charleston, SC – June was the busiest month in the history of the Port of Charleston, capping another record setting fiscal year.
Rebounding exports and double-digit growth pushed international trade through the Port of Charleston to an all-time high for the eighth consecutive year. In fiscal year 2000, which ended June 30, the South Carolina State Ports Authority handled more than 1.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), surging 16% ahead of the previous year.
Exports stimulated the record year, increasing 19% to 823,914 TEUs. In fact, three months last year were all-time record months for U.S. outbound shipments through Charleston, the nation?s fourth busiest container port. Exports represent a majority of the Port?s business at 54% of all loaded containers. Exports continued their growth in the second quarter, up 12% from the last year.
Imports also increased during the fiscal year, rising 13% from FY99 to 743,672 TEUs, primarily due to increased consumer spending and shifts in distribution channels to the Southeast. Asia and Europe were top suppliers of the gain.
Despite the double-digit increase in container volume and overall port tonnage, vessel traffic to the Ports Authority?s terminals in Charleston increased only 1% to 1,981 ships, up from 1,963 ships during the previous year. This shows the trend toward larger ships with a higher per vessel throughput.
Behind the business volume increases in fiscal year 2000 were many successes, including new and expanded ocean carrier services, progress on major port initiatives and significant capital investments. To maximize use of current facilities, last year the Ports Authority invested heavily in existing terminals and ordered new container handling and stacking equipment at a cost of $42 million. Included were four new post-panamax container cranes ($25.5 million) and 12 new rubber-tired gantry cranes ($16.1 million). In FY01, the Authority plans to invest $47 million in facilities and equipment.
Also during fiscal 2000, the Ports Authority finalized a lease for 100 acres and three piers on the former Navy Base, began harbor deepening to 45 feet, hired dozens of new employees, and continued the permitting process to build a new terminal on Daniel Island.
While container volume continued its blistering growth, traditional breakbulk cargo remained weak. The Port of Charleston?s smallest business segment, non-containerized cargo such as vehicles, oversized equipment and palletized goods, fell 9% to 493,543 tons. The Port of Georgetown?s business, which includes paper products, steel, cement and salt, was off 4% from last year?s record to 1,635,646 tons. The Port of Port Royal?s volume also declined, slipping 8% to 336,793 tons.