July 29, 2009

Port of Georgetown Nets New 20-Year Contract

Georgetown, SC - The Port of Georgetown will soon welcome the first ship call as part of a new, 20-year contract that will bring business to the port while supporting local manufacturing and maritime jobs.

Carolina-Pacific, a South Carolina-based producer of wood briquettes used as a renewable energy source, will begin manufacturing and exporting product from the Port of Georgetown in October. The first vessel is expected to handle 6,000 metric tons of product onto a ship for export to Europe.

Carolina-Pacific plans to move approximately 66,000 metric tons in its first year of operation at the port. Carolina-Pacific has signed a 20-year contract with the SCSPA with two, 5-year renewal options.

Local officials and business leaders joined company representatives, the maritime community and the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) today at the port to announce the new business.

In addition to the business across the pier, Carolina-Pacific will initially occupy more than 100,000 square feet of warehouse space at the port to support manufacturing and exporting the wood briquettes, which are used in power generation as an eco-friendly substitute or supplement to coal.

Wood pellets and briquettes are quickly becoming a high-demand commodity overseas due to requirements that member countries of the European Union generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

"We are excited to welcome Carolina-Pacific and this new business to the Port of Georgetown," said L. David Schronce, the SCSPA's director of the Port of Georgetown and Veterans Terminal. "Each ship entering the port supports tugs, pilots, longshoreman and others within the local maritime community, which means more dollars in the local economy."

"Georgetown is a vital part of the state port system, and the Ports Authority is dedicated to keeping it a viable port facility for this community," said David J. Posek, chairman of the SCSPA. "Today's announcement demonstrates the Ports Authority's commitment to aggressively pursue and grow business through Georgetown. Especially in this tough economic climate, we must focus on our core mission of serving as an economic engine for the State of South Carolina."

"We appreciate and commend the Ports Authority's flexibility and ingenuity in helping us launch this business," said John B. Kern, chairman and CEO of Carolina-Pacific. "South Carolina is now staged to enter the renewable energy industry on a global scale."

Kern noted that the operation has a direct connection to the state's forestry and agricultural industries by utilizing South Carolina-sourced Southern Yellow Pine in the on-site production of the briquettes and in the transport of switchgrass grown in the I-95 corridor.

"I welcome today's announcement and applaud Carolina-Pacific's faith in the positive business climate of coastal South Carolina," said Congressman Henry E. Brown. "This is also an important step forward for the Port of Georgetown, a significant economic development resource that I have long supported in Congress. The key to addressing the Port's maintenance needs is to increase the tonnage coming across the dock, and the aggressive work by the community and the Ports Authority should be commended," said Congressman Brown.

"This announcement is another indication that Commerce's close partnership with the state Ports Authority is a winning combination. Having Commerce project manager John Scarborough stationed at the port provides further evidence that strong leadership at the Ports Authority working hand-in-hand with an economic development professional is a team that is producing dividends for South Carolina," said Joe Taylor, Secretary of Commerce.

"Our state's ports system continues to be an incredible asset for South Carolina and Carolina-Pacific's commitment to the Port of Georgetown is another example of how export activity and the strength of our state's ports are integral in attracting new jobs and growing our economy. Thanks to the team efforts of state and local leaders, Georgetown County will benefit from this announcement now and in the years ahead," Secretary Taylor said.

Attention is being focused on maintenance dredging for Georgetown's 27-foot authorized channel. Thanks to the action of Congressman Brown, the Energy & Water Appropriations bill approved by the U.S. House earlier this month included another $1 million toward needed maintenance dredging in Georgetown. With Sen. Lindsey Graham's support, the Senate Appropriations committee adopted the same provision in its version of the bill.