SC Ports cuts into delays at Charleston

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Port says it is “quickly working ships and reducing its vessel queue” by pausing work at Wando Welch; “planned reopening” of the Leatherman Terminal should also ease congestion.

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports) has issued a statement saying it is working to address vessel congestion and expects to be able to offer vessels a berth on arrival at Charleston by mid-July.

On 1 July SC Ports reported it had three ships at anchor and was “temporarily pausing toe wall construction” at its main Wando Welch container terminal. The port is building a Toe Wall at the terminal as part of its Charleston Harbor Deepening Project to maintain a 54-ft depth at berth.

“Our SC Ports team and maritime partners are working together to ensure fluidity for our customers amid this critical infrastructure project,” SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin said. “Our ability to provide creative solutions when challenges arise, along with the incredible support we receive from our customers, makes all the difference in navigating short-term supply chain challenges.”

The port attributed its current congestion to a “two-day software issue in May” and the Toe Wall work, which began in March. WorldCargo News has ascertained that the software issue was not related to the ports TOS, which is supplied by Tideworks Technology.

Sheet pile driving for the Toe Wall.

The Toe Wall is a large project being completed by Russel Marine LLC. It involves driving 47ft-long sheet piles along the length of the wharf. The work is done in sections, allowing SC Ports to accommodate three ships at the terminal for most of the spring. “As work progressed down the wharf, only two berths were available, causing longer wait times for vessels,” the port explained.

“Beginning July 3, SC Ports will pause work on the Toe Wall project to reopen all three berths at Wando Welch Terminal through July 14. This pause in construction will enable SC Ports and the maritime community to work ships faster and work through the remaining anchorage in support of ocean carrier customers and shippers.

“SC Ports expects to work ships on arrival by mid-July. As the Toe Wall construction resumes going into August, a 48-hour average wait is anticipated,” the port said. Wando Welch is expected to be able to work three ships simultaneously again in “late fall”, ahead of the project completion in March 2025.

The port is also looking forward to the “planned reopening” of its Leatherman Terminal, which has sat idle almost since it was opened for the first time early 2021. Now that the port has reached a deal with the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) it expects to start handling vessels at Leatherman, which has one 426m berth. Leatherman is located on the other side of the Cooper River to the port’s Wando and North Charleston terminals.

Other measures the port has taken to reduce the impact of congestion include offering shift start times at 0100, 0700, 0800, 1300, 1900; the flexibility to call on either Wando Welch or North Charleston terminals; and communicating “virtual queue times” with ocean carriers to minimise waiting time at port.

“Our ocean carrier partners are seeing positive effects of the measures we have implemented, and cargo customers appreciate the restoration of regular calls and services,” SC Ports’ Chief Commercial Officer Byron Miller said.

“We have proactively worked with our ocean carrier customers, as well as our maritime partners and logistics providers, to provide solutions. We appreciate the confidence, support and encouragement from our customers as we navigate these challenges. We will continue delivering the superior service they have come to expect from us,” he concluded.

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