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Ports & Transportation

South Carolina Ports Authority Announces Aggressive Strategic Plan

SBJ Staff

The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) board announced at its Oct 20 meeting that it has adopted the first major update to the organization’s strategic plan in several years.

The plan highlights Charleston’s 45’ harbor depth advantage – 48’ at high tide –  according to David J. Posek, chairman of the SCSPA, and the refines the agency’s mission and points to several areas of focus in the coming years. Savannah’s harbor depth currently stands at 42,’ with hopes to deepen to 48’ within the next 10 to 14 years if the GPA receives federal approval.

“Through this eight-month process, we have established the vision and direction for South Carolina’s ports,” said Posek.  “Now, we’re going to pursue it aggressively.”

In addition to refining the SCSPA’s mission statement, detailed assessments of the competitive, industry, market, economic and financial situation were also conducted.

“It’s obvious that Charleston’s greatest competitive advantages are vessel access, along with a broad base of customers, efficient terminals and financial stability,” said Jim Newsome, SCSPA president & CEO.  “Charleston has the deepest channels on the South Atlantic,” said Newsome. 
“Charleston can handle 90 percent of the world’s existing and on-order container ships up to 9,000 TEUs.  Even before the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014, I believe this port will see post-Panamax ships with more regularity and frequency.  This is a competitive advantage for our customers.”

The strategic planning process identified a number of issues that fundamentally affect the SCSPA’s ability to fulfill its mission, explained Posek, primary in four categories:

• Market Development – taking advantage of current and emerging market opportunities
• Infrastructure – developing the optimal infrastructure plan for growing business
• Stakeholder Relations – building productive relationships and consistent communications
• Financial Sustainability – sustaining financial self-sufficiency

The plan includes specific actions that will be developed and implemented by both SCSPA staff and external stakeholders to address each focus area, including building breakbulk business in Charleston and Georgetown, partnerships with stakeholders on new business, completing phase I of the new Navy Base Terminal, implementing a post-45’ deepening project in Charleston, enhancing communications with stakeholders and advancing a new terminal in Jasper County.

“Working collaboratively, we will successfully put this plan into action, regain business, build market share and fulfill our mission,” said Newsome. “We have a very dedicated staff of talented employees who are prepared to make this a reality.”

SCSPA also announced last week that Maersk Line, the world’s largest ocean carrier, has signed a new, five-year agreement with the Port of Charleston, according to South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) President & CEO Jim Newsome, during his first State-of-the-Port address to the local maritime community last week.

“Maersk Line is the largest line in the world, having 15 percent of the world’s market share,” Newsome said. “I cannot imagine running a major port without having Maersk as a prominent customer. The good news is that we will not have to.”

The new contract runs through December 31, 2014 and is the culmination of several months of negotiations, he said. Maersk has had a presence in the Port of Charleston for more than 50 years.

“Today we can handle two-way vessel traffic at up to 48 feet of draft with the tides,” Newsome said. “This will today accommodate every ship that calls an East Coast port.”

Newsome also noted that the Panama Canal expansion in 2014 will bring additional vessels carrying up to 9,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to East Coast ports, giving Charleston a competitive advantage.

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