FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Charleston, SC - The South Carolina State Ports Authority today announced three major initiatives to address public concerns over the proposed Global Gateway Terminal on Daniel Island. The SPA has altered the location of the first phase, requested legislative approval of future phases and asked that a neutral mediator be appointed to resolve rail right-of-way issues in the Cainhoy area.
"These initiatives are the result of considerable effort by our Board and staff, as well as the extremely helpful counsel of the Delegation's Port Subcommittee, which has been addressing our expansion over the past several weeks," said SPA Chairman Edgar A. Buck of Charleston.
Chairman Buck and SPA President and CEO Bernard S. Groseclose Jr. spoke with Sen. Ernie Passailaigue before the special Board meeting. Sen. Passailaigue chairs the Charleston County Legislative Delegation's Ad Hoc Port Subcommittee. That committee was established earlier this year to hear testimony on the project and report back to the full delegation.
Mr. Groseclose characterized the announcement as "responsive to the concerns of the local community, while enabling us to meet our customers' needs and fulfill our responsibility to South Carolina's economic vitality."
In a special teleconference meeting at the SPA's Main Office in Charleston, the Board voted to adjust its plans, saying the first phase of the proposed shipping terminal will be built on the Cooper River side of Daniel Island, instead of the Wando River side. The Cooper side of Daniel Island sits across from more industrialized areas and the former Navy Base.
"This is in direct response to concerns voiced by citizens and elected officials. The Ports Authority hopes this shows our willingness to both listen, and to act," said Chairman Buck.
The SPA owns approximately 1,300 acres of former dredge disposal sites on Daniel Island and has applied for a permit to construct a port terminal in small phases to serve the shipping needs of South Carolina industry over the coming decades. The first phase of the terminal will include approximately 4,000 linear feet of berth and the associated container storage areas. With 5.8% annual growth among existing customers alone, the SPA will be out of space by 2007. This year alone, container volume is up more than 20%.
"This demand amplifies the need to prepare for the future," said Mr. Groseclose. "Even with $100 million invested over the coming years to improve existing terminals, the first phase of the new terminal on Daniel Island must be constructed in the near term if we hope to keep our port competitive.
"From a strictly navigational standpoint, the Wando River side is more attractive," said Captain Whitemarsh S. Smith III, an SPA Board member and president of the Charleston Branch Pilots Association. "But our decision has to be based on more than just navigational concerns. Advanced simulations show the Cooper side will work."
Capt. Smith continued, "Existing plans for the new bridge across the main channel include a southern alignment and a 1,500-foot horizontal span, improving navigational access up the Cooper River. In addition, powerful tractor tugs have entered the port to serve the larger vessels turning up the Cooper River and will aid access to the future port site."
To address the scale or size of the project, the SPA Board agreed that all future phases of the terminal would require the approval of the South Carolina General Assembly. Opponents of the proposal have said that the SPA's long-term development plan was too large for the Charleston community.
"This essentially gives the legislature veto power on future port expansion. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity for community concerns to continue to be heard over the life of the project, while preserving the near-term viability of the port," said Chairman Buck.
The SPA also today announced that an independent mediator will be appointed to examine, re-examine and assess all possible solutions to the rail location challenge. "No avenue will be ignored, no assumptions will be made and no possibilities will be overlooked," said Chairman Buck. "We will seek the assistance of the Legislative Delegation's Ad Hoc Port Subcommittee in selecting the mediator."
Mr. Groseclose said, "The rail route has been a major concern in the long-range port planning process. The goal is to develop a viable route -- one that is acceptable to the community and that can also be permitted by the regulatory agencies. All information from the transportation consultants will be shared with the mediator and the community for their examination."
At the conclusion of today's meeting, Chairman Buck said, "These are very significant initiatives that we are announcing today. They directly address the concerns we have been hearing, and they do so in a way that we believe is very responsive. At the same time, I am confident that we can continue to meet the needs of our customers and fulfill our role as an economic engine for South Carolina." The SPA's mission is to contribute to the economic development of South Carolina. All but three of the state's 50 largest manufacturing employers ship through the port and every county is home to companies conducting foreign trade. In all, there are 83,000 port-related jobs in South Carolina, paying $2.6 billion in wages annually.
"The positive impact of the Port on people's lives and the South Carolina economy is tremendous," Mr. Groseclose said. "These are real people with real jobs that rely on international trade. We must reach a solution to the port's long-term competitive needs. Thousands of people are depending on it."