South Carolina Ports Authority

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South Carolina Ports Authority
South Carolina Ports Authority.jpg
Abbreviation SCPA
Formation 1942
Type Owner/operator
Headquarters Charleston, SC
President & CEO
James I. Newsome, III
Mission The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) promotes, develops and facilitates waterborne commerce to meet the current and future needs of its customers, and for the economic benefit of the citizens and businesses of South Carolina. The SCSPA fulfills this mission by delivering cost competitive facilities and services, collaborating with customers and stakeholders, and sustaining its financial self-sufficiency

The South Carolina Ports Authority owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, as well as the South Carolina Inland Port in Greer, South Carolina. Established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1942,[1] it is authorized and charged with promoting, developing, constructing, equipping, maintaining and operating the harbors and seaports within the State of South Carolina.

An economic development engine for the State, the South Carolina Ports Authority handles international commerce valued at more than $63 billion annually[2] while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. According to a 2015 economic impact study conducted by the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business, port operations facilitate 187,200 jobs across South Carolina (one in every 11 jobs) paying 40% higher than the state's average wage. The study attributes nearly $53 billion in annual statewide economic activity to port operations.[3]


Seal of the South Carolina Ports Authority

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) was created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1942 by Act No. 626 (Title 54 - Ports and Maritime Matters in South Carolina Code of Laws) as an instrumentality of the State possessing the powers of a body corporate. [4] The SCPA's mission statement describes the organization's role, which "promotes, develops and facilitates waterborne commerce to meet the current and future needs of its customers, and for the economic benefit of the citizens and businesses of South Carolina. The SCPA fulfills this mission by delivering cost-competitive facilities and services, collaborating with customers and stakeholders, and sustaining its financial self-sufficiency.”

Description of Operations[edit]

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) owns public port and transportation facilities in Charleston, North Charleston, Charleston County, Georgetown and Greer, South Carolina. The largest facilities are located in Charleston, where the SCPA operates five major ocean terminals capable of handling breakbulk and container shipments in addition to passenger vessels. All of the SCPA's container terminal facilities are located at the Port of Charleston, where the primary focus is the movement of containerized shipments to and from the vessels calling the port.

The Georgetown facility serves as a bulk and breakbulk facility. A previously run breakbulk facility in Port Royal facility was closed and transferred to the S.C. Department of Administration in 2016 to be sold.

The role of the SCPA is as a terminal operator serving as receiver of export cargo (container and breakbulk) from inland carriers and a receiver and dispatcher of import cargo (container and breakbulk). The SCPA is considered an operating port, as distinguished from a landlord port. The majority of the cargo and virtually all of the container cargo passing through the SCPA's facilities is bound for or originates from international destinations. In addition to national economic conditions, major factors affecting the SCPA's cargo volumes include global economic trends, currency exchange rates with overseas trading partners and consumer demand in the Southeastern and Midwestern United States.

The SCPA has approximately 440 acres of container marshalling yards, of which approximately 387 acres are designated for use by nearly three dozen container shipping lines that have contractual agreements with the Authority.

The SCPA owns and operates 21 container cranes that are rented with Authority operators by the hour to contract stevedoring firms for the loading and unloading of container vessels. The SCPA's operator loads or unloads the cargo to or from the ship. The private stevedoring firm moves the cargo from or to the SCPA's container marshalling yards. In the marshalling yards, SCPA personnel operate container moving equipment to facilitate the receipt/storage or delivery of containerized cargo.

Export breakbulk cargo is placed in SCPA-owned transit sheds or open storage areas with SCPA equipment, including material handling equipment (primarily lift trucks) and mobile or gantry cranes. Export cargo remains in the transit shed or open storage area until it is loaded aboard a vessel by a contracting stevedoring firm. The shipper (freight forwarder) designates the line and vessel to which the cargo is consigned prior to receipt by the SCPA . Import breakbulk cargo is discharged from vessels by the contracting stevedoring firm and placed in an SCPA transit shed or open storage area. The cargo remains on SCPA facilities until instructions are received from the importer’s agent (customs house broker), who orders the necessary trucks or rail cars. When the rail car or truck arrives, it is loaded with the designated cargo by SCPA personnel.


Aerial photo of the Wando Welch Terminal, Port of Charleston, SC

Port of Charleston[edit]

The South Carolina Ports Authority owns and operates five public marine terminals in the Port of Charleston. These facilities handle both containerized and non-containerized cargo, as well as cruise passengers. A sixth facility - the Hugh K. Leatherman, Sr. Terminal - is a new container terminal at the former Charleston Navy Base under construction, with plans to open in 2020.

Port of Georgetown[edit]

A dedicated non-container port handling bulk and breakbulk cargo, the Port of Georgetown is located along the Sampit River adjacent to the Georgetown Steel Mill. With an expanded berth, ample open and covered storage, specialty cargo handling facilities, and an experienced maritime community, the Port of Georgetown handles top commodities of steel, cement, aggregates, and forest products.

South Carolina Inland Port[edit]

Opened November 2013, the South Carolina Inland Port in Greer, SC extended the reach of the port more than 200 miles into the state's interior. Connected to the Port of Charleston via overnight rail offered by the Norfolk Southern, the inland port handles containerized goods to and from the fastest-growing part of the Southeast - the I-85 corridor.

Capital Investment Plan[edit]

In a 10-year period, the South Carolina Ports Authority plans to invest $1.3 billion in new and existing facilities. The funding for the capital plan will be internally generated based on the Ports Authority’s ability to borrow (in the form of revenue bonds) as well as its operating revenues. Additionally, the State of South Carolina has committed approximately $700 million in funding for port-related infrastructure projects in the works. These projects include a new dual-rail served container staging yard in North Charleston, a port access road tying the Ports Authority’s new container terminal to I-26, as well as the state share of construction cost ($300 million) of the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project.


The South Carolina Ports Authority is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors, each appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, along with two non-voting, ex-officio members - the state Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Transportation. They serve terms of seven years or until their successors have been appointed and qualified. A Review and Oversight Commission, composed of members of the South Carolina General Assembly, was established in 2009. Despite its status as a public agency dedicated to the economic development of the State of South Carolina, the Ports Authority does not receive direct appropriations from the state for capital or operations expenses. Instead, the Ports Authority operates like a private business, and funds its operations and investment efforts through its own revenue stream and ability to issue bonds.