Southeastern US Economic Boom Highlights Charleston Port Activity

December 14th, 2017

Rising trade and investment fuels the US Southeast’s economic surge, as more shippers choose Charleston, SC’s supply chain advantages and efficiencies.

The southeastern United States is experiencing a period of vibrant economic and demographic growth, with South Carolina central to much of that activity. In response, expanding businesses and international firms are carefully re-examining competing production, transportation and logistics capacities around the region for their operations. Consequently, an increasing number of companies are selecting South Carolina and accompanying Port of Charleston as offering the best solutions to improve efficiencies and lower costs of supply chains.

South Carolina is solidifying its status as the US Southeast's gateway to the world, with the port of Charleston representing one of its most attractive assets to business partners. Its rising activity already ranks ninth in the U.S. in terms of tonnage, and is set to lift Charleston to the fifth spot by 2020. It's expected to be among the top three USA ports in the next decade, trailing only New York and Los Angeles.

The port benefits from dense rail and highway networks transiting Charleston, which allow offloaded maritime cargo to be rapidly dispatched to final destinations by land. Strategic to that mix is the South Carolina Inland Port about 200 miles northwest of Charleston, to which containers from incoming ships are hauled by rail before being set on trucks. Inaugurated in 2013, the Greer, SC facility handled about 60,000 rail lifts in 2015, and should exceed 100,000 for 2017.

"The rail and inland port capacities represent a fast means of getting containers to a major regional manufacturing center," says Tyler Smith, branch manager for the Bolloré Logistics office opened in Charleston in 2016. "Getting that freight off the roads and on rail equates to improved road safety, decreased environmental impacts, quicker speed to production, and lower overall freight costs."

Converging factors further enhance Charleston's attraction. The area's high quality yet affordable lifestyle has drawn a growing pool of skilled employees. They generally share the mind-set and work culture of reactivity, flexibility and industriousness forged within the region's relatively recent economic ascent. That has coincided with increasing numbers of automotive, hi-tech, aeronautic, retail and other businesses investing in Charleston -- and drawing suppliers with them – to utilize the area's labor and supply chain advantages. 

"The trade community, government agencies, and port authority share our focus on the importance of getting freight off ships and onto rolling trucks and trains as quickly and efficiently as possible – and as a daily priority," says Mr. Smith. "Speed is our focus, and our success is dependent on all key entities impacting cargo flow acting in unison with common overall goals."

Continued improvement is also key. Charleston recently secured approval for a $213 million dredge project to make it the deepest port on the eastern seaboard, and more accessible to New Panamax vessels. "Charleston is already geographically closer to navigable open ocean as compared to its rivals, and this project will help to solidify Charleston's growth goal of reaching the top three USA ocean ports," says Candice Kurent business development manager for Bolloré Logistics' Charleston unit.

The local presence of freight forwarding partners also plays major role in establishing Charleston as a priority port in supply chains stretching across the U.S. and worldwide.  Even in today's digital world the need for hands on, local relationships remains strong – and a vital factor in doing business in the Charleston and South Carolina markets.

"An essential resource is being on the ground, networking, and using face-to-face relationships with our vendors, clients, partners and authorities to mutual advantage," says Ms. Kurent. "If you're not here, establishing the local relationships, someone else will be and the presence is key to the procurement and maintenance of business in this market."

Key Figures
  • 20%

    More fuel-efficient for the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350

  • 70%

    of Urbanisation is expected by 2050

  • 27

    mega-cities are expected by 2050, with at least 10 million people, compared to 1...

  • +18,4%

    of growth for E-commerce retail market in Europe in 2015

  • 82%

    of goods are moved by road

  • 1 billion

    Population in Africa

  • 60%

    of Africa’s population will be urbanized by 2050

  • 7,5%

    of growth for Indian GDP in 2014

  • 4,9%

    of growth for African GDP in 2016

  • 6,1%

    of growth for East Asian GDP in 2015, the world’s fastest-growing region

  • 19 224 teus

    transported by the MSC Oscar, the largest container ship in the world

  • 396 m

    is the size of the MSC Oscar ship

  • 120 h

    is the Non-Stop Flight Record done by Solar Impulse

  • 4,5%

    of growth in 2015 for Global Airfreight demand