The Port of Charleston along with the state of South Carolina is to expand marine terminal capacity, deepen the harbor and strengthen inland infrastructure to allow for the New Panamax ships. The project will occur over the next decade and cost over $2.2 billion. When complete, capacity at the port will increase by 50 percent.
While Charleston has a good reputation with truckers for quick turn times of less than 30 minutes, interstate highway and road access to the harbor is becoming increasingly congested, with long periods of morning and afternoon delays.
The harbor will be deepened to 52 feet, and the Wando Welch terminal will be strengthened to handle ship-to-shore cranes that are 155 feet in height, compared to the traditional crane height of 115 feet. An automated gate system will be implemented at the terminal.
Charleston ranks ninth amount U.S. container ports, and per James Newsome, President and CEO of the South Carolina Port Authority, when commenting on all of the investment said, “We think that is what is required to be a top 10 port.”
In other news, the Port of Houston is exploring the use of electromagnetic driverless powered transporters to move containers to and from the port terminals. Freight Shuttle International (FSI) has unveiled a prototype of the system at Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute.
Houston port officials are looking at this as a means of smoothing cargo flow and reducing emissions and costs. It is expected they will take several months on a first study to identify additional questions raised by the technology.
Richard Byrnes, the ports Chief Infrastructure Officer said, “We’re very interested, we don’t know what the optimal solution will be, but this is a technology that has been on the drawing boards for a decade. Now that it’s become a reality with the prototype, it’s time to think through what the logistical, operational, environmental, and economic costs and benefits could be”.
Mr. Byrnes went on to say, “No matter where the trucks go to or from, getting them through the heavy traffic zones is the costliest part of the trip, and the one that generates the most emissions and delays, this is where the Freight Shuttle could play a part.”
Gordon Dorsey, FSI Vice President said, “Congestion is a friction on the economics of moving cargo, I always thought, ‘man, wouldn’t it be really nice if somehow they could put these containers on an elevated guide way where they would separated from all of that traffic.’ ”