State of the Ports, truckers worry growth will cause delays

One in every 11 jobs in the state of South Carolina is tied to the Ports Authority, and it contributes $914 million in state tax revenue every year. It’s a large part of the infrastructure in Charleston with companies like Volvo, Mercedes Benz, and Michelin nearby.

A few months ago, the SC Ports Authority implemented a new Advanced Gate System at the Wando Terminal. A combination of the learning curve and technology glitches led to backups down I-526. Truckers are worried that isn’t over. News 2 spoke to one trucker who asked to remain anonymous. He says the delays in June cost him his paycheck.

He says, “When the system came about, I think I was losing on the average more than half of my normal daily intake. And that hurt for a few weeks.”

He says for the most part, things have been better lately.

He says, “Things are moving a little bit faster. They do still need help in the port with these new ships, I believe that they’re understaffed, but the system seems to be working for the most part, they do have glitches at times.”

He says most truckers use both the Wando Terminal and the North Charleston terminal. He’s worried when the Advanced Gate System is put in North Charleston the problem will start all over again.

He says, “Start slowly versus all at one time. Open a few lanes one week and make sure it’s running, open a few lanes another week, go into it slowly.”

SC Ports President and CEO, Jim Newsome, says he expects that transition to happen sometime next month. He doesn’t expect similar issues because there is less traffic in and out of the North Charleston terminal.

Newsome says, “The volume in North Charleston is probably 25% what it is here at Wando and we will have run all the traps on the issue, so I don’t anticipate any issues there.”

He says they already worked out all the bugs in June.

Newsome says, “The learning was done at Wando and I anticipate that it will go very smoothly. The system works very well, we just have a lot of volume at Wando, we do close to 6,000 gate transactions a day some days.”

The Southeast trade industry is projected to grow twice as fast as the US overall, so the ports need to accommodate that. In the State of the Port, Newsome says one big goal of the Ports Authority is to make the Charleston Harbor deeper to allow for larger ships to come through.  They also want to complete the Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston and they are opening a new inland port in Dillon, SC, near the North Carolina border. The freight from Dillon will travel by rail and make the transit to and from Charleston more efficient. That port is expected to open in Fall 2017.

Newsome says, “We’re moving 25% of our volume is rail inter-modal today. It was like 12% when I started 7 years ago. I don’t think it’s ever going to get above 30% but it’s an important way to move freight we need to look at creative ways of moving freight. So we’ll be able to do that, be able to handle big ships, our deepening projects is obviously critical.”

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