More often than not, you can look out to the Charleston Harbor and see massive container ships coming into and leaving our waters.
It hasn’t always been this way.
In 2009, the South Carolina Ports made the tremendous decision to work towards distinguishing themselves as a major port in the country and, specifically, the Southeast. Jim Newsome, President and CEO of the South Carolina Ports, who began in the same year, saw a vision that was far bigger than anyone could have ever hoped for at the time.
“We need to be a top 10 port in the United States,” said Newsome. “There is no room for a niche port anymore.”
In 10 years, they have doubled in size, making them the ninth largest container port in the country. They earn $300 million in revenue annually and represent 10% of South Carolina’s economic impact. Now, approximately 187,200 South Carolina jobs are dependent on the Ports.
With a brand-new shine still on their headquarters now located in Mount Pleasant, the Chamber’s Business in your Backyard attendees were invited to hear from Jim Newsome about the new facility, recent expansions and future endeavors.
Walking into this beautiful space next to the Wando terminal, you immediately notice that in almost every room of the facility, the expansive windows allow you to see the hustle and bustle of the Wando terminal and the colorful container ships stacked alongside the massive cranes. The 160 dedicated employees located in the headquarters can see first-hand the significant impact that their work has on the Lowcountry, our state and the nation. The $45 million facility has $10 million in technology, a beautiful gym and a full-service café. This kind of headquarters is what you’d expect after reading about their recent achievement as a top employer in South Carolina.
“We love our new space as it will enable us to do an even better job than before,” said Newsome.
Currently, 85% of business comes from the Wando terminal as it is more accessible for larger TEU* ships. To meet the depth requirements of the growing number of large vessels calling Charleston, the Chamber is pushing for two infrastructure priorities to come to fruition for the South Carolina Ports; Charleston Harbor Deepening and the Hugh K. Leatherman terminal.
The next-generation harbor deepening project led by Barbara Melvin, Chief Operating Officer with the Ports, is underway. The project began in 2011 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study determined a federal interest in the deepening of the Charleston Harbor and cited the project as the best value for scarce public dollars. It has progressed more quickly than any federal deepening project to date, with tremendous support by elected officials on all levels – local, state and federal – as well as business leaders in our region.
The Hugh K. Leatherman terminal, a new 280-acre container terminal in North Charleston is the only permitted new container terminal on the East and Gulf Coasts, which offers S.C. Ports a competitive advantage. It is also the first green field terminal to be built on the East Coast since 2009 and will boost the capacity of the port by 50%. The construction will be completed in three phases – with phase one being the most expensive and expected to open in 2021. Phase two is expected in 2026 and Phase three in 2032.
“I am extremely optimistic about the future,” said Newsome. “Once you attract business, more business will come. We don’t worry as much about the everyday changes in this industry, but more about the long-term vision. We want to be the Port that works best and has an identifiable culture.”
Interested in the Chamber’s other top priorities in infrastructure needs for our region? View our Infrastructure Priorities Report
*Twenty-foot equivalent unit – used to measure a vessel’s capacity by counting how many containers of 20′ length can be loaded onboard.