Inland Port Opinion

By James I. Newsome,
President and CEO,
South Carolina Ports

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) is excited about the things happening in Dillon County in 2017. This year the South Carolina Inland Port Dillon will be built just south of Dillon, South Carolina. Adjacent to the CSX Railroad mainline and a mile from I-95, access to this new intermodal railyard will bring significant economic development opportunities to the Pee Dee region and the southeast.

The SC Ports Authority achieved its record all-time TEU (twenty foot equivalent units) volume in 2016 with 2 million TEU shipped. This represents a 70% increase since 2009 making Charleston the fastest growing port percentage-wise in that time period. We are firmly entrenched as a top-10 port nationally, and exports are driving our growth well above the industry average.

Charleston Harbor has been authorized to a depth of 52 feet, making it the deepest harbor on the east coast and positioning us to accommodate the trend in the containerized shipping industry toward the efficiencies of larger ships. In South Carolina we are spending more than 2 billion dollars over 10 years to deepen our navigation channels, raise ship to shore cranes, and strengthen wharves to accommodate the big ship trend. We are currently building the new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal which will increase the Port’s capacity by 50% when complete in 2020.

SCPA opened the successful South Carolina Inland Port Greer in 2014 which handled 103,639 import and export containers worth more than 1.2 billion dollars in 2016, generating more than 350 million dollars in direct business activity in South Carolina. Inland Port Greer provides an inland intermodal model to insure the success of Inland Port Dillon and is a glimpse into the future of Dillon County. To support our container growth, as well as investments that manufacturers have made in South Carolina, we must innovate, adapt, and accommodate the needs of our customers with facilities that bring the Port closer to their import-export centers.

Through partnership with CSX Railroad, Harbor Freight Tools, Dillon County, Marlboro Electric Cooperative, Northeastern Strategic Alliance, and the City of Dillon, the process of building Inland Port Dillon is well underway. Close collaboration with Dillon County and the Northeastern Strategic Alliance has brought this project to fruition through years of hard work and planning. Design is being refined, permits have been filed and construction will begin in spring of 2017. Inland Port Dillon will benefit the local, regional, and national economy; but also provide jobs and economic development for Dillon, an economically-distressed area within South Carolina with a poverty level more than twice the national rate. The construction of Inland Port Dillon will reduce highway truck traffic and reduce emissions. The environmental impacts of the terminal footprint will be offset with protections of the nearby Little Pee Dee River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has just released a public notice asking for the public’s opinion of the Inland Port Dillon Project. We think Inland Port Dillon is an exciting prospect that is good for jobs and the environment. Inevitably, there are some groups that will oppose good projects on environmental grounds for the sake of opposition. Don’t let outside interests decide our economic fate, we encourage you to provide comments on the project by February 17th to: Mr. Nathaniel I. Ball, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 69 Hagood Ave., Charleston, SC 29412.

With our partners, SCPA looks forward to building South Carolina Inland Port Dillon in 2017 and insuring that Dillon County and South Carolina are poised for the future.