Intermodal Briefs: SC Ports, Port Houston, Port Milwaukee

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
A cargo ship filled with goods sails through Charleston Harbor. South Carolina now has the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet. (Photo/Provided by Matthew Peacock Media)

A cargo ship filled with goods sails through Charleston Harbor. South Carolina now has the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet. (Photo/Provided by Matthew Peacock Media)

South Carolina Ports (SC Ports) finishes Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) with a strong June. Also, Port Houston reports steady volumes through the first half of the year; and Port Milwaukee celebrates the grand opening of the Agriculture Maritime Export Facility.

SC Ports on July 18 reported finishing FY23 with “steady container volumes and stellar activity at its rail-served ports,” handling nearly 2.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and 1.4 million pier containers.

While this is down about 10% from FY22—when pandemic spending spurred an unprecedented cargo boom—volumes are up 1% from FY21, a much more typical year, according to SC Ports.

In June, SC Ports handled 203,091 TEUs and 112,883 pier containers, up more than 3% year-over-year. Retail, advanced manufacturing, automotive and cold storage sectors continue to drive growth at the Port of Charleston.

Inland Port Dillon had a record FY23, handling 39,143 rail moves, a 50% increase from the year prior. Inland Port Greer also had a strong fiscal year, with 146,813 rail moves, down about 3% year-over-year.

Both rail-served inland ports handled record June volumes. Inland Port Dillon recorded 4,048 rail moves, up 139% from last year. Inland Port Greer had its busiest June ever, with 14,887 rail moves, up 24% year-over-year.

The cruise business also had a strong year with a record 294,136 cruise passengers coming through Union Pier Terminal in FY23.

SC Ports had 188,517 vehicles rolling across its docks in FY23, a 14% decrease from the year prior. Over the past three months, however, SC Ports says it has seen organic growth of automotive volumes, with exports increasing to meet international demand. In June, SC Ports moved 15,375 vehicles, a 20% increase year-over-year.

“SC Ports provides reliable, efficient service for companies’ supply chains,” said SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin. “Port-dependent businesses will continue to invest in South Carolina to gain access to a well-run port with capacity in the booming Southeast market.”

“In FY23, we efficiently moved cargo while significantly expanding our capabilities for the future,” Melvin added. “We broke ground on a near-port, rail-served cargo yard, further expanded Inland Port Greer and successfully deepened Charleston Harbor to 52 feet. Our strategic investments make us more competitive for the future.”

Port Houston on July 18 reported handling 315,983 TEUs in June 2023, making the total for the year thus far more than 1.8 million TEUs, a decrease of 2% compared to last year’s record-breaking year.

“It’s not surprising that import volumes are slightly under last year’s unprecedented pace,” said Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther. “But container activity through Houston remains strong overall. To put it into perspective, import TEUs at Port Houston are up 30% compared to 2019, before the pandemic.”

Barbours Cut Container Terminal, Port Houston

At Port Houston’s breakbulk facilities, general cargo declined 22% year-to-date compared to 2022. However, there continues to be demand for rail, oil country goods, line pipe, and other products, resulting in steel imports up 11% this month compared to June 2022, according to the Port. Auto import units at Port Houston, while down 10% in June are up 30% year-to-date compared to 2022.

Enhancements at Port Houston facilities include recently added Union Pacific (UP) services to Denver, Salt Lake City, Oakland, Los Angeles and El Paso, and BNSF services to Greater Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver markets. In addition, work is nearing completion on Port Houston’s newest container dock at Bayport Container Terminal, which is expected to be open later this year.

“As we move into the traditional peak season toward the end of the year, we are ready for the world’s cargo,” said Guenther. “Our customers can continue to count on us for efficiency, reliability, and the top-notch customer service they expect from us.”

Port Milwaukee and The DeLong Co., Inc. on July 18 celebrated the grand opening of the $40 million Agricultural Maritime Export Facility on Jones Island.

Representatives from the Port, DeLong and the City of Milwaukee were joined by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Mayor Cavalier Johnson, and federal, state, and local officials to celebrate the completion of “this major investment that will create jobs, support Wisconsin’s agriculture industry, and grow the regional economy.”

The facility, located on the west side of Jones Island, will be one of the first on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS) system to handle various agricultural commodities via truck, rail and international vessel, including Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGs)— an animal feed supplement derived as a byproduct of ethanol high in nutrients. This facility, Port Milwaukee says, will open Wisconsin’s maritime and agricultural economies to new international markets for this and other products. Future service at the facility may also include the export of Wisconsin-grown soybeans, corn and grain.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has estimated the DeLong terminal will generate $63 million in new statewide economic impact annually, increasing exports through Port Milwaukee by as much as 400,000 metric tons per year.

Thanks to a robust public-private partnership, this development is the largest one-time investment in Port Milwaukee since the 1950s, according to the Port, which was one of the first nationwide grant recipients of the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) through the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Additional facility funding has been provided by WisDOT, Port Milwaukee, and The DeLong Co., Inc.

“Port Milwaukee is an integral link in the Wisconsin economy. In this case, we are connecting Wisconsin farmers, growers, and producers with new international markets,” said Port Milwaukee Director Jackie Q. Carter. “The combined support from local, state, and federal officials affirms the importance of this new asset on Jones Island. The development of this facility at Port Milwaukee is a great addition to the city’s marine commerce, and I’m excited to witness the benefits it will create for our maritime economy.”

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