The Port of Charleston increased the amount of cargo moving in and out of the port by rail by 18 percent last year to nearly 145,000 containers, the South Carolina Ports Authority reported Tuesday.
Since 2011, intermodal volume is up by 50 percent, helped by two recent initiatives to improve access and efficiency.
Rail terminals are located about 15 miles away in North Charleston, but the RapidRail program launched in April 2012 has streamlined the truck shuttle process. Under RapidRail, the port authority coordinates container movements to and from the rail yards to better match outbound export loads arriving at the railhead for delivery to the port, with trucks dropping off import loads from the port and minimize wasted trips. Vessel operators pay a fee to place trucking orders with the port authority, which finds a match for their container and arranges pick up and delivery. The program accounts for about 85 percent of the port's rail drays, with a few ocean carriers still arranging their own truck transport.
In November, the port authority opened the South Carolina Inland Port in Greer. The 40-acre facility essentially moves the port closer to shippers by providing an upstate intermodal rail terminal served by Norfolk Southern for the exchange of international shipments rather than trucking cargo all the way to the coast. Empty containers can also be stored closer to the customer, which benefits the port by freeing up valuable waterfront space and saves shippers from paying for empty truck miles.
The growth in rail container traffic is also the result of the port authority's work to attract discretionary cargo from surrounding states, it said.
"Charleston offers competitive rail facilities and services, providing our customers an advantage to moving discretionary cargo through our port," President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Newsome said in a statement.
Intermodal moves only represent 9 percent of Charleston's total container volume, but should increase in 2018 when a new intermodal container transfer facility is scheduled to be built in North Charleston on property the port authority is developing into a new ocean container terminal. Last year the port handled 1.6 million TEUs.
Port authority spokeswoman Erin Pabst said the inland port is closed
today because of the winter storm blanketing a large portion of the