Container traffic at the Port of Charleston grew 4 percent to 125,257 TEUs in June compared to the same month last year, according to the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA).
June capped a strong first half for the port, which handled 6.1 percent more ocean boxes, or 788,915 TEUs, than January through June of 2012.
For fiscal year 2013, ended June 30, container business at the Port of Charleston was up 9 percent, with 1.56 million standard shipping units handled. The SCPA reports volume on a fiscal year basis.
Charleston is handling some 9,000-TEU ships, but they cannot be topped off with cargo because the channel is not deep enough. The state of South Carolina and the SCPA are seeking federal approval and funding to deepen Charleston's main channels from 45 to 50 feet, although the port is able to handle ships drawing up to 48 feet at high tide today.
"The shipping industry trend toward mega-consortia will ultimately be an advantage for deepwater harbors, like Charleston," SCPA President Jim Newsome, said in a statement.
Last month ocean shipping giants Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM announced plans for an operational alliance on trans-pacific and trans-atlantic trade lanes. The P3 Network will initially operate 255 ships in 29 strings with 2.6 million TEUs of capacity.
Previously, the Grand Alliance (Hapag Lloyd, NYK, and OOCL) and the New World Alliance (NOL, MOL and Hyundai) combined to form the G6 Alliance to better compete with the three largest container lines.
June's figures reflect the start of new or expanded container services in Charleston this summer. The port will lose some future business after Hapag-Lloyd and OOCL three weeks ago said they will no longer call Charleston with their Gulf Mexico Express service between Europe and the U.S. Gulf and Mexico.
First-half volumes at the Port of Virginia, a major competitor, grew 6 percent to 1.05 million TEUs.
Charleston's non-container facilities - Columbus Street, Union Pier and Veterans terminals - handled 1.12 million tons of bulk and breakbulk cargo in fiscal year 2013, a 30 percent jump from the previous year. While breakbulk volumes grew around one percent, the biggest gains in these combined segments were associated with a large-scale, local paving project that has since concluded, the port authority said.
At the Port of Georgetown, business was off 10 percent, with 494,645 pier tons handled from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.
In other action Tuesday, the SCPA board approved a contract for nearly $2 million to raise the dikes by six feet at Drum Island, a 200-acre upland disposal site for material from berth maintenance dredging at Columbus Street and Union Pier terminals. The project which will create an additional 1.5 million cubic yards of dredge capacity at the site. - Eric Kulisch